Important Communication Skills for CNEs

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

The nursing profession relies heavily on Certified Nursing Educators (CNEs) to train future nurses. Learn about the communications skills required to become an effective CNE.

Bad Education

Imagine you are nursing student who is learning how to insert a peripherally-inserted central catheter (PICC) in a patient, which involves inserting a catheter into a vein in the arm and then feeding the catheter through the vein until it reaches the heart (a very dangerous procedure). However, imagine that your instructor talks very quietly and does not face you when they are speaking, making it very difficult for you to hear them. After your teacher is done talking, they ask you to perform the procedure on the patient.

How well do you think you would do in this scenario? Probably not very well, right? Communications skills are very important for any educator, including Certified Nursing Educators (CNEs). CNEs are responsible for training and educating nurses entering the medical field. Therefore, it is vitally important for CNEs to communicate effectively in order to train and develop competent nurses.

A CNE must use effective communication skills in order to properly train and educate future nurses.
nursing educator


So what exactly is communication? Communication is a two-way process that involves the exchange of information through several different ways, which include:

  • Verbal: communicating by talking and listening
  • Non-verbal: communicating through facial expressions, hand gestures, and other forms of body language
  • Written: communicating by writing and reading

Many people think that the majority of communication is accomplished verbally. However, this is not true. In fact, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), 93% of communication is accomplished through body language and tone of voice, and only 7% of communication is based on what a person is actually saying.

Non-verbal communication, such as body language, often has the greatest impact on the effectiveness of communication.

Tips for Effective Communication

The following list includes several important tips that a CNE can follow in order to ensure effective communication.

  • Use good eye contact. It is important for both the speaker and listener to use appropriate eye contact. Eye contact shows the other person that you are listening. Also, eye contact ensures you are facing the other person, making it easier for the person to hear what you are saying.
  • When speaking, try to lean forward instead of leaning back. Leaning forward is a sign of being interested, while leaning back is a sign of boredom or disinterest.
  • Don't cross your hands in front of your chest. This position is often thought to be a sign of disinterest.
  • Ask frequent questions. These questions can help make sure the person is paying attention and understanding the information. Questions can also serve as a way for CNEs to evaluate their students.
  • When speaking, try to be concise. People often start to tune a person out when they talk too much.
  • Provide feedback. For example, pretend a CNE is educating a nurse on how to properly clean a wound. When the student is performing the procedure, it is important for the CNE to give the student feedback so they know what they did correctly and incorrectly.
  • Use empathy, which involves trying to see things from another person's perspective and not being judgemental or overly strict.

It is very important for a CNE to use appropriate eye contact when speaking to students.
eye contact

Communication in Nursing

Nursing students are often under a lot of stress. These students are usually taking multiple classes and completing clinical training, all while juggling their personal lives. Therefore, it is vitally important for CNEs to be aware how they communicate with their students.

For this reason, empathy is particularly important for CNEs to use when communicating with their students. Because nursing students are under a lot of stress, CNEs should not be overly harsh and critical when evaluating their students. This is not to say that CNEs should give all of their students excellent grades. What it does mean is that CNEs should use constructive criticism and proper communication skills when evaluating students.

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