Chapter 1 – Introduction to Communication and Communication Theory in Nursing

Professional Communication

Professional communication involves a level of formality and is an important component of your post-secondary nursing education. It is different than the informal communication that you may engage in with your friends and family. It also applies to your verbal and written communication including emails.

The principles of professional communication include being truthful, accurate, clear, and both concise and comprehensive. For example, you should say or write something in a succinct and short way while also including all relevant information. You should also have a professional tone that is conveyed through appropriate greetings, complete sentences, and grammar. In order to be professional, you need to know your audience; both the content and form of your message should be tailored to your audience.

Here are some tips to follow in terms of professional communication:

  • Introduce yourself fully by name and role/institution, such as: “I am Mateo Reyes, a year one nursing student from Ryerson University.”
  • Address the person you are speaking to formally. Also, do not assume the gender of the person you are speaking to. For example, you should avoid using terms such as “miss,” “ma’am,” “sir,” “mister,” “ms,” etc., until you know how the recipient wants to be addressed. If you are uncertain, introduce yourself fully and ask how the recipient would like to be addressed.
  • Clearly articulate your message (what you are trying to say).
  • Speak in full sentences.
  • Be honest.
  • Be polite. Your communication is a reflection of YOU and your professionalism.

Because a lot of communication occurs electronically, it is important to consider how to construct an email. Here are some tips:

  • Use a professional email address. At most universities, your email communication with a professor should originate from your university email.
  • Begin with a clear description in the subject line. For example, students should include the course code in the subjective line and a brief description identifying the reason for the email (e.g., “NSE 54: question regarding week 3 quiz”).
  • Use a professional email greeting and salutation to address your professor, or the salutation preferred by the professor.
    • Appropriate: “Dear Professor Dodge” or “Hello, Dr. Chen.”
    • Inappropriate: “Hey teacher.”
  • Introduce yourself so that the email recipient knows who you are. Remember, professors teach several courses and course sections. Thus, you might say “I am Minta Li. I am a student in your Wednesday section of NSE 678.”
  • Refer to any attachments in the email text.
  • Avoid point form, slang, and abbreviations.
  • Include a signature block at the end of your email identifying your full name, role, institution, and contact information.
  • Proofread your email for accuracy, grammar, and spelling.
  • Avoid humour and excessive use of exclamation points and all caps. These can easily be misinterpreted.


Points of Consideration

Addressing your professor

Students are often uncertain how to address their professors. It is okay to ask your professors how they would like to be addressed.

Activity: Check Your Understanding


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Introduction to Communication in Nursing by Edited by Jennifer Lapum, Oona St-Amant, Michelle Hughes, and Joy Garmaise-Yee is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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