In the healthcare setting, life-or-death situations can mean super-charged emotions, and it’s not just from patients. It can even be from fellow team members and your nurse manager. Hence, expressing these emotions properly is important, especially in different forms of communication in nursing. These include body language such as facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, and the tone of our voice. This body language guide intends to improve your communication with your patients and your colleagues. Further consider that when we carefully examine the body language of others, it is easier to become more cognizant of our own behaviors. In doing so, we can modify our own body language.

Here are five simple suggestions for creating positive body language:

  1. Make eye contact. Eye contact demonstrates honesty and shows the sender that you are paying attention to what they are saying. This will build trust with your patients and your colleagues.
  2. Avoid finger-pointing. Finger-pointing sends a signal out to everyone that someone or something is the subject of conversation. In essence, this is an invasion of privacy, but it also considered “rude” in our culture.
  3. Avoid sitting in a nonchalant manner (i.e. with hands behind the head). Sitting in such a fashion can suggest unprofessionalism. You really do not want to be seen as working and providing care for your patients with such an attitude.
  4. Avoid rolling your eyes. Eye rolling is not only unprofessional, but it also mocks the speaker. The eye roll is perceived as a negative gesture and will in most cases make the other person angry and/or defensive. If you find yourself in a disagreement or even a confrontation with a coworker or patient, try to avoid rolling your eyes.
  5. Avoid infringing on your colleagues’ or patients’ personal space. Everyone’s personal space is their own, and invading that boundary can be uncomfortable and threatening. 

Oftentimes, people aren't even aware of their body language. Hopefully these suggestions will be a helpful reminder of the importance it plays in nursing communication and our relationships with our patients and coworkers.