7 Nursing Communication Skills for Introverts
By Sarah Stasik
Are you an introvert who wonders if nursing is the right career choice — or an introverted nurse who's dealing with exhaustion after every shift full of people?
Introverts actually make wonderful RNs, and if you can learn how to apply some top nursing communication skills tips, you can connect with patients and other staff members in positive, helpful ways.
Check out our seven tips for boosting communication even if you're a hard introvert.
Nursing Communication Skills: 7 Ways Introverted RNs can Boost Communication with Patients and Coworkers
Introverted nurses actually come to the job with a few key skills that can make them great RNs. Introverts like deep connections with other people, tend to be very observant and are great listeners.
At the same time, introverts can struggle to interact in large groups, especially for long periods of time, and their need for periodic solitude can make them seem aloof to others.
Here are seven tips for nursing communication with patients and staff that help you succeed as an introvert in healthcare.
1. Choose the Right Type of Nursing Career for you
It's not that introverts don't have nursing communication skills; it's that introverts have different communication strengths than extroverts do. One of the best things you can do for your nursing career is choose a niche that fits you.
While an introverted nurse can certainly succeed in a busy ER or OR, he or she may be happier long-term in a setting that allows more one-on-one interaction with others.
That might include a mental health floor, physician's office or even the ICU, where nurses may work over days or weeks with the same patients and families.
2. Use Nursing Communication Skills that Lean into your Strengths
Introverts aren't always the first to speak up, especially in a group setting, but they're good active listeners. When introverts do speak, they tend to skip small talk and chit-chat and move right into something important.
Leverage these traits to improve nursing communication with patients. In a hospital setting, family and patients need to feel that someone is really listening to them, which makes those introvert nursing communication skills super-valuable.
Jessica Simmons, a retired nurse who is also an introvert, says listening was one of the most important things she did for patients. She also said she avoided small talk but didn't rush right into medical things either.
"I just asked questions I thought might be important to them, so they could get comfortable with me first," she says. "Stuff like do you have any kids, what do you do for a living. That doesn't feel like small talk to me if it matters to the patient."
3. Don't be Afraid to Pause or Gather your Thoughts
Introverts often want to think about what they're going to say before they say it. But a nurse pausing too long before answering a question can be alarming to patients or families.
When you need a moment, put this tips for nursing communication with patients into action: Simply say you need a moment. Say something like "This is a complex concept, so I just want to take a minute to ensure I'm explaining it the best way possible."
4. Use Built-in Breaks from Patients and Staff Wisely
One of the biggest differences between extroverts and introverts is that introverts tend to recharge with personal quiet time or time spent with one other person.
Introverts aren't actually shy and they don't all dislike being around others, but if you're an introverted nurse, a shift full of constant noise, stimulation and interaction can be exhausting.
Bolster your other nursing communication skills by taking time for short recharge breaks throughout the day. Pzizz, an app that offers guided power naps and relaxation sessions, is one tool you might consider. Find a quiet break room or sit in your car for a 10-minute recharge session.
5. Say Yes to Social Invitations Some of the Time
Nursing communication skills definitely don't require social outings, but being part of a team can mean accepting the occasional invite. Never socializing with coworkers can make you seem cold or make others feel you don’t want to be a part of the team.
"I was usually tired and ready to go home after a shift," says Simmons, "but I said yes sometimes. I liked a lot of my coworkers, and I did have fun with them. I just had to make myself say yes sometimes."
Going out with coworkers — or simply being part of an activity or effort in the workplace — shows you're part of the team, and cohesive nursing teams tend to communicate better.
6. Practice Body Language and Eye Contact
Introverts — especially those who also have social anxieties or are just socially awkward — don't always practice the best eye contact and body language. Nursing communication with patients requires attention to these details, so practice them regularly if they don't come naturally.
There's something to be said for practice making perfect, and faking these interpersonal skills now can make them more natural later.
7. Work on Individual Relationships
While you're branching out with nursing communication skills as an introvert, don't forget where your wheelhouse is. Introverts tend to be strong when it comes to developing one-on-one relationships, though it can take them a while to warm up to others.
Your individual relationships with coworkers can make a huge difference in how you feel about — and are able to do — your job.