Teaching nurses how to communicate empathy is crucial to patient care and healing, says a new paper in the Journal for Nurses in Professional Development. Communicating empathy involves encouraging the patient to speak -- to tell her story and explain her concerns. Nonverbal communication is key and includes orienting the body toward the patient, making eye contact, nodding the head and matching voice tone and vocal rhythm to the patient's. Verbal communication involves active listening in which the nurse demonstrates that she accurately understands the patient's experience. One example involves paraphrasing what the patient just said, and another comprises identifying the "between the lines" emotion behind the patient's words and stating that observation back with phrases like, "It sounds like you're feeling ... ." Other verbal communication skills can comfort patients through, for example, expressions of sympathy or reassurance. With practice, say the authors, nurses can use these communication skills naturally and without much effort. Read the abstract.

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