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Page 1 - Communication Study Guide for the CNA

Training to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) may be a long and grueling process for some, as it involves learning a wide array of skills. One of the most important skills in CNA training (or any medical profession) is communication. Communication is a vital aspect of working in the medical field; patients must communicate their distress to a nurse or doctor, who must then communicate the possible treatment options or the possible cause of patients’ distress. This may be done in writing or verbally—either way, CNAs are required to develop keen communication skills, both in speaking and in writing.

Patient Interaction

One aspect of communication that is key to working as a CNA is patient interaction. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) active listening, appropriate conversation, and relaying information.

Active Listening

Because many patients are hesitant to discuss personal matters with medical professionals, you must be careful when listening to patients and catch what is said as well as what is implied. A patient with a series of STD symptoms, for instance, may not divulge all necessary information when asked. Listen carefully, ask the right questions, and pay attention to subtext.

Appropriate Conversation

Appropriate conversation is important when speaking casually with your patients. This may include simple small talk or more in-depth questions about your medical background or qualifications. Be open and friendly in communication, but do not overindulge or slip into extremely personal conversations.

Relaying Information

Relaying information will be a regular job for you as a CNA. You may be required to relay information regarding a patient’s care to a coworker or about caring for oneself directly to a patient. In these situations, listen carefully to ensure the correct delivery of a message and clarify with coworkers and with patients alike. If any confusion is expressed, or if the possibility of misunderstanding arises, you must address these issues immediately to prevent a potentially hazardous communication breakdown.

Medical Interaction

As a CNA, you will be interacting with various medical professionals on a regular basis. While some of these interactions will not be professional in nature, many will require your rapt attention and will be highly confidential. In these situations, listen carefully, repeat back any information you are offered, and relay or write down the information exactly as presented.

Medical information is not only extremely confidential but is also potentially dangerous if a client or healthcare provider is misinformed. Because of this, adequate communication both verbally and in writing is of the utmost importance and must be accompanied by active, observant listening.

Monitoring Speech (Verbal and Nonverbal)

As a conversation with a close friend (or sworn enemy) can attest, conversation and communication is far more involved than simple words from a mouth. Gestures, tone, and body language are all indicators of a discussion’s purpose and tone. When speaking with patients, especially, CNAs must focus on delivering communication with tightly controlled nonverbal cues.

Offering a patient advice regarding a lifestyle change, for instance, will be poorly received if it is delivered with crossed arms, a creased brow, and a hard tone. A caring approach, with open arms, wide eyes, and a concerned tone will be far more effective in communicating the need for change. As you continue your training and work in the role of a CNA, be sure to monitor nonverbal speech by regulating your tone and body language.

As with any position, communication is a pivotal skill to master. While working as a CNA, you will be regarded with a plethora of emotions and concerns, including fear, hostility, hope, and distrust. To facilitate trust between you and your patients and pave the way for a positive experience, you must learn to communicate effectively, both in verbal displays and in written communication.

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