Chapter 1 – Introduction to Communication and Communication Theory in Nursing

Professional Communication

Professional communication is an important part of becoming a nurse and being a nursing student. You are entering a “profession” which means there are certain expectations in terms of your professional conduct specifically in terms of how you communicate.

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, role/institution and pronouns, such as: “I am Mateo Reyes, a year one nursing student from Toronto Metropolitan University. My pronouns are they/them.”
  • Address the person you are speaking to formally. Also, do not assume the gender or pronouns 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 and what pronouns they use.
  • 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”, “Hi”, or “Yo.”
  • 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.” Additionally, you may need to consider including your student number in an email when you introduce yourself. This is particularly when inquiring about course issues, grades, or program status in order to clearly identify yourself as student names can be similar.
  • 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. You should NOT include your student number or a personal cell phone number in the signature block because it is considered part of your private information at the university. This private information can be used in the body of the email when communicating with certain individuals who may require this information such as your professor or a student affairs coordinator.
  • Proofread your email for accuracy, grammar, and spelling – important to have your program name spelled correctly.
  • Avoid humour and excessive use of exclamation points and all caps. These can easily be misinterpreted.

Signature Block Example

Sharod Hadi, nursing student year one, pronouns: he/him

Toronto Metropolitan, Centennial, George Brown Collaborative Nursing Degree Program, Toronto, Ontario

Professional/institutional email address (insert your own email)

Points of Consideration

Addressing and referring to your instructor

Students are often uncertain how to address their instructors. It is okay to ask your instructors how they would like to be addressed. Until you know how, you should refer to them as “Professor X” (insert their surname) or “Dr. X” (insert their surname).

Although some instructors may invite you to use their first name, it is part of professional communication etiquette to use “Professor X” or “Dr. X” (including both their first and last name) when referring to them to others. In addition to ensuring professional communication, this helps to provide clarity if your instructors share a first or last name with another instructor.

Example: Dr. Huang is your course instructor, and they have encouraged you to reach out to another professor to discuss potential research opportunities. Although Dr. Huang has given you permission to call her Lisa in the classroom, you should always refer to them as Dr. Lisa Huang in communication with others. Thus, when initiating communication with the instructor that Dr. Huang has referred you to, you may consider a beginning such as: “Dear Dr. Hameed. I am a student in the undergraduate year one nursing communication course with Dr. Lisa Huang. Dr. Huang has encouraged me to reach out to you about potential research opportunities because of my interest in critical feminism.”

Activity: Check Your Understanding


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Introduction to Communication in Nursing Copyright © 2020 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.

Share This Book