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Types of Communication in the Care Setting

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Communication is an important component in the health care field. Employees in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical settings need to communicate regularly with patients and residents about medical procedures, daily care tasks and the patient’s overall health. Because of the importance of communication, many schools and health care training programs are teaching future employees how to communicate by first discussing the different types of communication in the care setting.

Verbal vs. Non-Verbal

Before a health care worker performs any medical procedure or care task with a patient, it’s important they use verbal communication to inform the patient. This allows the patient to know what to expect. Verbal communication can also be used by the patient to inform the health care worker how they are feeling, what concerns they have and any other questions the patient may have. Non-verbal communication in the health care setting comes from eyes, hands and other parts of the body. Providing eye contact, not crossing the arms and leaning in when talking to a patient are non-verbal ways to communicate you care.

Formal vs. Informal

Formal communication is often found in hospital policies and documents. This type of communication can be very rigid, leaving little or no room for feedback or deviation. Health care workers use formal communication when explaining hospital policies to patients and their families. Informal communication is less structured, and often allows for more interaction and communication between patients and caregivers. Conversing with patients about their interests, families and daily activities generally occurs using informal communication.


Not all patients are able to communicate on their own with their caregivers. In these instances, many use technology-aided communication devices to hear or speak. For example, patients who are unable to speak may type their thoughts into a computer that announces them out loud.

Signs and Symbols

Many health care settings are full of signs and symbols that communicate quickly what a patient or visitor needs to know. Using this type of communication is beneficial in care settings, as it allows individuals who are unable to read or understand a specific language to still know what is being communicated.


Allison Dodge has been a writer since 2005, specializing in education, careers, health and travel. She has worked at educational institutions for more than 10 years. Dodge has a master's degree in education administration.

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