Bridging the Communication Gap

We often pay little attention to our reading and writing deficiencies even as we appreciate their importance in our daily lives. Speaking confidently before an audience can sometimes evoke powerful emotions of fear. Communication has been written and rewritten but as nursing students and professionals, we need to raise the bar another notch.


Every year, many prospective health profession students find the personal statement an intimidating hurdle. With nursing admissions already very competitive, communicating clearly one's enthusiasm is critical. The following is how Berkeley University describes the statement's importance: After we have read your personal statement, we will ask the question, "What do we know about this individual? If we have learned very little about you, your personal statement is not successful."

Good oratory and writing skills convey creativity, eliminate clutter and are fluid in elucidating one's ideas. However, it is a work in progress and must continually be tweaked to achieve more consistency. Building strong communication skills start with a solid reading comprehension. Reading critically, according to Rice et al, is a "process" and that even effective strategy is "not a quick-fix".

Patient compliance can be achieved given a good understanding of process and outcome. This will require a well-read provider, too, which we'd all assume is a given. However, accentuating this conundrum is our very own and indefatigable, TheCommuter (A Nation of Non Readers? "The true scope of this problem lurks in the shadows because functional illiterates and marginal literates are usually very astute at covering up their poor reading skills. Low literacy skills can negatively affect patient outcomes..."

As is evident on these forums (and various professional articles), the image of nursing is struggling even as patients continue to rank nurses as most trusted professionals. Speaking genuinely about the pros & cons of nursing can encourage a healthy debate about the state of the nursing profession.

with proficient writing and oratory skills can only further the profession's image. In 2007, American Nurse Today delineated three key steps, among many others, to advance the profession's image:

  1. Contribute to the community by writing health-related articles in the newspaper
  2. Speaking to civic and community groups about what nursing is and does
  3. Teaching communication skills...

Surely nursing students are called upon to present before a class and have written assignments. These projects are notorious for being time-consuming and require thought. Many of us dread speaking before an audience or fear being chosen to write the overall consensus given a group project. To further the image of nursing, especially among other professionals, nursing students and nurses can't afford to be passive and must be confident when educating the public and assertive in scientific pursuits.

Beyond the classroom, as newly-minted graduates vie for competitive positions, good communication is often a quid pro quo for employment or promotion. In the workplace, even, it can transcend a laundry list of nagging stereotypes (e.g. race, cultural, religious) that impede progress. Even in careers like computer science and engineering, being able to explain ideas is vital. Consider a mechanical engineering ad from Apple: "Excellent written and verbal communication skills and people skills [required]." Communication is like a computer program. It is a process; it's very complex, yet beautiful and always in need of 'debugging'.

Sir Richard Steele's quote that "reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body" underlies the importance of reading and especially, academic articles gave one's future professional goals. Finally, Jenna Cambria & John T. Guthrie at the University of Maryland add this kicker: "students can expand their recognition that reading impacts their school success, their prospects for further education, their career potentials, and their prospects in the world of gainful employment."

Bridging the communication gap helps a nation to be more informed. It is that vital link between two parties negotiating a contract or settling a conflict. As we zero in on our individual needs (e.g. requesting a reference letter, writing a thank you note) we begin to appreciate that communication is more than a tool, but our way of life--our very existence.

I'm a BSN, RN, CRRN with long term and varied physical rehabilitation nursing experience.

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Very important points however nurses should have the ability to translate medical terminology into an easily digestible format. This is a skill that must be mastered before attempting journalism as the art of journalism isn't writing as much as it is framing a mass communication.

Of course, as the English nerd in my nursing class, what I heard the most often was, "I'm not an English major Crazed."

Students can set themselves apart in nursing school simply by submitting health related articles to their college newspapers. Editors are always looking for topics that are relevant to the student body. (Myths about flu vaccines, smoking, what is a healthy diet etc.)


2 Articles; 36 Posts

Dear Crazed,

It's Saturday morning and I'm actually just getting back on this site. I, nevertheless, thank you for your 'courage' to share your thoughts. If the article can invite even one written reaction, then it achieved its goals.

It dawned on me that by submitting my last two articles, I effectively entered a contest. Interestingly, I was more upbeat about the debate itself. I wondered how future and current professionals view the mediocre state of literacy and mathematics in this country. I wondered how seasoned nurses, even on a forum, could help further the nursing profession. And I've put in quite some time in researching wonderful articles on here but I was hoping for more!

Sadly, people (especially having known my academic interests) often ask me: why seemingly choose this career over that, which seems more money and intellectual? One volunteer who knew me during my student research days, declined the volunteering hours. PA was then out of contention (and I'd had to wait a year). This coordinator meant well, but I think was ill-informed about the many paths of this


That said, I've been swimming in doubt since the nursing school acceptance. Maybe I'll eventually apply to PA school, using the nursing school clinical hours or work and apply next year.

Again, thanks for your thoughts and good luck. So long...


281 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

Practicing a skill in one area hones skills in all areas, because we are above all else one person with a complete psychosocial package. When we expand our mind, be it through essay writing, advanced mathematics, clinical practices, writing letters to the student paper, coding PHP, or volunteering at an animal shelter, we are improving ourselves. Learning is cumulative. Curiosity drives all true progress. Those who read voraciously and study around their classes will improve retention in their classes. This is why historically, liberal arts nonprofit nursing schools demand that students study philosophy and art as well as nursing, and look for students with a demonstrable interest in subjects unrelated to the "core" classes. This is why even Harvard Medical School says that they are not looking for students with 4.0 GPA's in the hard sciences, but for bright people with wide-ranging interests and a solid ability to think, lead, and communicate. Students should welcome opportunities to speak to the class, to interact with patients in the clinical setting, to involve themselves in extracurricular activities, extra courses and classes, and even - gasp - to fail. These experiences will mold them into more than graduates with a degree in nursing: they will help them to become nurses, educators, and patient advocates.

Good article and keep them coming.