The nursing leader is placed in the center of interaction and must communicate with patients, employees, administrators, and providers to deliver the best experience and healthcare services. For this reason, a leader must have advanced communication skills to lead, guide, and persuade all parties and stakeholders to improve the quality of health care. Such skills help to receive, process, and fulfill the requests of all participants in the system efficiently and achieve the goals of value-based healthcare. The purpose of this paper is to explore the characteristics of verbal, non-verbal, and written communication at the highest level to assimilate professional leadership competencies as a doctorally prepared practice scholar.
Verbal Communication of a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
A DNP Leaders’ Competencies of Verbal Communication
Verbal communication takes up most of the leader’s time in dealing with staff, patients, and other stakeholders in the organization. For this reason, the leader must have competencies in verbal communication and constantly improve them to avoid conflicts, misunderstandings, and failures in interaction. The main competencies of verbal communication are cultural knowledge and professional language.
Cultural competence is one of the basic skills that a leader should have for effective communication because it helps to find the appropriate approach to a person, avoid misunderstandings and accidental rudeness. At the same time, the transmission of the message is influenced not only by the cultural and ethnic characteristics of people but also gender, generation, religion, values, and perceptions. Lack of cultural knowledge can lead to both conflicts and critical errors. For example, a leader may say culturally inappropriate commentary because of stereotypes that surround a particular culture. Another example is that a nurse may miss a critical detail of a drug or technology used for an older patient, since this detail is evident to most younger patients.
Moreover, the leader must use professional and understandable language, adapting it to the listener’s knowledge. For example, when talking to employees, the leader can use professional terminology and informal simplifications and criticism; however, comments must be provided carefully, and internal medical terms cannot be used in communication with the administration or other hospital units (André et al., 2017). At the same time, the use of medical terms in communicating with patients should be minimized to convey the necessary information in an understandable manner. Thus, these two core competencies help offer informative, respectful, and effective communication with all stakeholders.
A DNP Leaders’ Comportment of Verbal Communication
At the same time, an important aspect is also the comportment of communication or the leader’s interaction approaches. These aspects are determined by a leader’s behavior in communication with the team, administration, or patients, which affects the quality of their conversations. The most crucial comportment is active listening, comprehensibility, openness, empathy, and feedback. Active listening is one of the key aspects of effective communication, since it allows the leader to see and understand the problems and concerns of the other party and respond to them correctly. For example, a leader should recognize that a nurse who complains several times about stress due to problems at work or in the family may require an additional day off to solve her problems. Another option is to express empathy and support to this team member, which can relieve his or her stress.
For this reason, it is also essential to speak openly and clearly about problems and tasks with the team and its members to avoid misunderstandings. Discussing all issues openly helps employees express their concerns without expecting judgment or punishment and builds their trust. At the same time, a clear statement of tasks is critical for their correct implementation; therefore, the leader should use different tools, for example, the Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) technique, to ensure that the information is understood by the employees (Abbaszade et al., 2017). In addition, the leader must be able to give feedback in a critical but respectful manner to nudge employees to develop but not diminish their confidence in their professionalism. An essential aspect of achieving high-quality communication is the consistency of tone of voice, intonation, and choice of words to convey a message (Ali, 2018). For example, a leader may use a supportive manner to give feedback or express criticism and dissatisfaction with an employee’s performance, which will affect their attitudes and motivation. All of these aspects rely primarily on the leader’s attitude towards others and his or her level of emotional intelligence.
Collaborative Nature of Verbal Communication
Since communication requires the participation of several people and is collaborative in nature, it is also vital for the leader to improve the team’s communication skills. A DNP leader can train staff to use different communication techniques to encourage them to take the initiative and debate problems to achieve a higher quality of interactions. Moreover, a leader should stimulate collaborative communication between nurses, patients, and their families, as well as interprofessional discussions because it enhances the quality of patient care (Barratt, 2018). Thus, communication will be collaborative not only in nature but also due to the efforts of its participants.
Non-verbal communication skills for a DNP are just as important as the ability to choose the verbal means. Non-verbal communication takes up 60-90% of all interactions, which increases its value (Hopkinson et al., 2018). In many cases, non-verbal cues are even more critical as they can change or negate the meaning of the spoken words if they do not correspond to the message. This section will explore examples of positive and negative non-verbal behavior to demonstrate this statement.
Positive Non-Verbal behavior
Non-verbal communication includes all behavioral features of people that demonstrate their involvement in the conversation and attitude towards the interlocutor, for example, posture, smile, body movements, or gaze. For this reason, a leader who is mindful of and in control of all these aspects can contribute to verbal communication, win the trust of a listener and better convey the message. For example, research has shown that maintaining eye contact and social touch, such as shaking hands, makes patients see healthcare workers as more empathetic (Ali, 2018). However, these gestures should also be used with caution because some patients may negatively perceive touch or eye contact due to their cultural or religious beliefs.
Nevertheless, some gestures and manners are generally accepted by all people and are demonstrations of positive behavior. The leader must be considerate of the patient, colleague, or subordinate and their speech. This behavior is manifested in such signs as the human body directed towards the speaker, the posture is open, and a person is not distracted by extraneous conversations or businesses (Ali, 2018). In addition, a leader must be proficient in non-verbal communication skills to recognize the hidden behaviors of others through their gestures or looks. For example, a patient may express fear and anxiety associated with domestic violence, such as biting their lips or glaring but not verbalizing it when their partner is around. A leader can recognize and interpret these signals to take action to prevent consequences. Thus, these examples demonstrate that positive non-verbal behavior can improve communication, while recognizing non-verbal cues allows a leader to understand other people’s problems better.
Negative Non-Verbal Behavior
Negative non-verbal behavior can negate the meaning of the message, cause distrust, and adversely affect communication. Firstly, often non-verbal behavior is interpreted by people at the subconscious level, even if they are not aware of the meaning of a particular gesture (Gravett, 2018). For example, a leader who does not break away from work while an employee talks to him is disrespectful and makes the employee think that his or her message has not been heard. As a result, employees have less desire to contact the leader with requests or problems because they feel neglected. Secondly, body language can also influence employee perception and interpretation of the message. Hopkinson et al. (2018) provide an example of how the crossed arms can be perceived as a protective or standoffish posture. Consequently, even a positive message from a leader in this position can be perceived as hostile by the team and affect their future actions or relationships. Thus, these examples demonstrate that non-verbal communication skills are critical for a leader, since even the meaning and perception of a verbal message can be distorted due to unconscious body movements or facial expressions.
Written communication skills are critical for nursing leaders because of the breadth of their responsibilities. A leader uses written communication daily to communicate with the team, set goals, write reports and memos, and scientific articles or peer-reviewed recommendations. For this reason, this section will cover critical aspects of written communication such as tone and style of writing and the use of Standard English, as well as strategies for improving these skills.
Tone and Style of Writing
Tone and style are essential in both verbal and written communication as they convey the message’s meaning and demonstrate the leader’s professionalism. In most cases, a DNP should use a formal style and a polite, professional tone, which, however, can vary depending on the purpose. For example, a letter to lobby or initiate changes in healthcare should have a convincing manner and understandable vocabulary for the general audience, and a review of another author’s scientific article should be highly constructive and have more complex professional terminology. In addition, when communicating with the team via e-mail or messengers, the tone can also be more formal, but the leader must clearly formulate requests or proposals, use positive speech and avoid irony to avoid misunderstandings.
A vital element besides the choice of tone is the use of standard English and grammar rules. Nurses usually follow the APA guidelines as this format for citing written work is the most common. Although the correct citation format is only necessary for papers that contain quotations and references, the general rules of punctuation, long sentences, and choice of words are universal for any written communication. Thus, spell checking is critical for a leader as mistakes in written language can lead to misunderstandings, and misspelling demonstrate disrespect to the addressee.
Strategies for Effective Writing
Most people do not have an innate gift for writing, especially when it comes to documents with a specific structure; hence, they need to use strategies to improve them. Hirschey et al. (2019) note that writing courses and the use of checklists to remember format or spelling details over time are the most effective strategies. This approach is especially relevant for documents such as reports, memos, or grant proposals that require attention to detail. For example, a checklist for a memo can consist of such elements as purpose, audience, structure including title and greeting, and approval of the message for an administration. Thus, teacher-led writing courses or self-practice and checklists are effective strategies for improving the writing skills of a DNP leader.
Therefore, this paper reviewed the verbal, non-verbal, and writing skills to explore one of the core competencies of a DNP leader. The leader must have cultural competence and professional language to ensure clear and respectful communication with all stakeholders. At the same time, aspects such as active listening, empathy, openness, and the ability to give encouraging feedback are critical for effective and quality communication. In addition, since non-verbal behavior can negate or distort the meaning of words, a DNP leader must use non-verbal communication consciously and recognize its message in other people. Moreover, written communication also plays a significant role in fulfilling the duties of DNP leaders, since they participate in the writing of scholarly articles, peer-reviews, documents, and use correspondence to communicate with different stakeholders. For this reason, the leader must be able to adapt the tone of the writing and use standard English to practice this type of communication effectively. Thus, these features demonstrate that communication takes a large part of the responsibilities of DNP leaders, which reflects the need for continuous development of their verbal, non-verbal, and writing skills.
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