Therapeutic communication

Competency Statement: The nursing student demonstrates the ability to use verbal and non-verbal communication skills to convey respect and empathy, and to encourage the person to express their feelings and needs, while at the same time maintaining professional boundaries.


The nursing student:

  1. Discusses the meaning and principles of therapeutic communication
  2. Describes the relationship between therapeutic communication and patient safety
  3. Outlines interpersonal and environmental factors that can interfere with therapeutic communication
  4. Discusses the importance of maintaining professional boundaries
  5. Describes strategies to evaluate and improve people’s health literacy
  6. Outlines the principles of effective patient education

The nursing student:

  1. Demonstrates the ability to develop therapeutic relationships while maintaining professional boundaries
  2. Uses verbal and nonverbal communication techniques effectively
  3. Asks the person for their understanding of the situation, issue, or problem
  4. Responds to the person’s requests and concerns courteously, kindly and in a timely manner
  5. Shares information with the person in a way that is understandable and that encourages participation in decision-making
  6. Communicates in a way that is appropriate to the person’s level of health literacy and avoids jargon and complex terms
  7. Provides education that is appropriate and meets the needs of the person and their family/carer
  8. Ensures privacy and confidentiality when communicating with and about patients
  9. Ensures relevant family/significant others are included in discussions about healthcare decision-making (as appropriate)

Therapeutic communication occurs when nurses use verbal and nonverbal communication techniques in a goal-directed way, ensuring that the healthcare needs of the person remain the central focus. Therapeutic communication is built on trust, authenticity, empathy and self-awareness. Nurses who communicate therapeutically listen to understand, maintain a non-judgmental stance, and are ‘fully present’ with the person.