It’s important that nursing students are professional in their communication when on a clinical placement experience and in all correspondence with their education provider.
Unprofessional behaviour is better known under the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act (2009) as unprofessional conduct. Unprofessional conduct can lead to serious consequences for nursing students, such as removal from a clinical placement experience or receiving an unsatisfactory grade, leading to failing a unit/course. In extreme scenarios students maybe the subject of a notification to AHPRA for professional misconduct.
Don’t end your career before it’s begun!
Developing your communication skills while you are a student will prepare you for the workforce where a high degree of professionalism is expected by your employer.
A Diploma of Nursing student’s professionalism came into question whilst on placement, including:
- inappropriately interrupting nursing staff during handover and in front of patients
- going on their break without telling their supervising buddy nurse or their clinical teacher
- not seeking approval from their educator to swap shifts with another student
When the educator and buddy nurse, sought to discuss those matters with the student, the student responded in an angry tone and provided written communication, using language of a similar tone in an email to their educator.
Additionally, the student used a social media platform to post the details of their gripe in a private Facebook group, which was subsequently screenshot and sent to their educator by a classmate.
While the student cited stress for their behaviour, it was not considered a valid excuse. They subsequently failed their placement and unit, causing delays for completing their course.
Practical tips for professional communication
- Use objective language: keep information factual and minimise conveying emotions such as anger and frustration.
- Be polite and respectful: if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, angry, or frustrated wait until you’ve had a chance to calm down before responding. If this is a face-to-face situation, tell the other party you need to take 5 minutes to regroup, or, if the matter is non-urgent, request to re-schedule within 1-2 days.
- Reflect on how your communication may be perceived by others
- Actively listen and reflect before responding: Avoid responses and body language that may be perceived as defensive. It may be beneficial to show openness to feedback by asking for it and taking it onboard.
- Get someone you trust to proofread sensitive emails to ensure they are professional: ANMF can assist Diploma of Nursing students if you are unsure how to best communicate via email. See contacts below.
- Educate yourself: There are courses and resources to learn how to developing and improve your communication and conflict skills.
- Prioritise self-care and seek support: Feelings of stress, anxiety, anger and frustration can make it more difficult to maintain professional communication. Use your support networks and debrief via appropriate avenues.
Frameworks to guide professional communication
- NMBA’s Code of Conduct for Nurses
- Health care organisations and education providers will have their own code of conduct and polices that outline professionalism expectations that need to be met