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Mindful speaking


As nurses we deliver crucial care to patients. We help to support families in times of distress, welcome new life into the world, and help provide care at the end of life. This fast-paced, high-stress environment can adversely affect our health and happiness. Practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool to help us focus on what is truly important. By being more mindful and compassionate towards ourselves and our health, we can be more present and “in the moment” with our patients. As humans, we often react too quickly to situations, not thinking about the effects our actions and words have on others. Evidence suggests that mindfulness-based interventions and practices can benefit nurses both personally and professionally.

What is mindful speaking?

We all know that communication is the basis of any relationship and is of utmost importance in the nursing profession; however, the concept of mindful speaking is rarely discussed. Mindful speaking implies having the ability to speak to someone with awareness of what you are saying and the tone in which you say it. Mindful communication also involves listening and using nonverbal cues with kindness, compassion, and attention. Before speaking we should all ask ourselves three questions:

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

As active members of the healthcare team, we work with many disciplines throughout the day via computerized orders, texts, paging systems, and phones. In all these modes, we must learn to be fully present in the moment—conscious of the words we use and the messages we are relaying.

What can be done?

One start is to change our mindset from negative thoughts to positive ones. This small step will help build positive emotions to better approach our job in a productive way. Being positive in a stressful environment can help individuals become healthier, happier, and more resilient. Simultaneously, this same positive energy can become contagious and help our co-workers become more engaged in their work and in turn provide better care to their patients.

Another strategy is to initiate positive and productive ways of showing support to peers, recognizing their hard work. Feeling valued for the acquired skills learned and practiced over the years, shines through in the work that we do. Facility recognition through emails, luncheons, awards and “shout outs” also offer acknowledgement, reassurance, and promote awareness of mindful communication. These various ways of being mindful are examples of positive collaborative communication in the workplace.

Nurse managers, clinicians, and supervisors all have a significant role in team member satisfaction and unit outcomes. Leaders must develop good relationships with their team in order to influence others. In turn, leaders earn their team’s trust, which has the downstream effect of increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover. Clear, mindful communication between members of management and frontline team members is essential. Management must be able to give and receive constructive feedback to create a successful professional relationship.

Since feedback is an effective tool of communication used to evaluate performance, the way feedback is given and the words used when providing this feedback is important. In general, individuals must be disciplined and speak in a way that conveys respect, gentleness, and humility. When a specific problem needs to be corrected, the focus should be on the issue, not the person. Feedback should be specific and to the point, and solutions should be offered to engage the nurse to meet the expectations needed. Positive feedback should outweigh negative feedback.

Closing thoughts

Nurses and other members of the healthcare team should remember that words have great power. Words are tools for expression and of comfort. Words can heal when said with love or cause immense pain when said with malice. Individuals should be mindful at all times and be aware of what they say and how their words can impact the listener.


Erika Lugois a mother/baby nurse at Tampa General Hospital. She has been a nurse for 16 years and has worked in several different departments including pediatrics and rehab nursing.

Selected references

Achor S. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. New York: Broadway Books; 2010.

Byers M. The battle for recruiting and retaining the best: Are you up for the challenge? Caring. 2010;29(4):20-21.

Conley KA. Nurse manager engagement: Strategies to enhance and maintain engagement. J Nurs Admin. 2017;47(9):454-457.

Cullen G. Realistic evaluation of a pilot programme offering mindful compassion training to nurses. 2014. Dissertation. docplayer.net/18981540-Realistic-evaluation-of-a-pilot-programme-offering-mindful-compassion-training-to-nurses.html

Giving constructive feedback. Nurs Times. 2007. nursingtimes.net/giving-constructive-feedback/215184.article

Fontane Pennock S. 7 great benefits of mindfulness in positive psychology.2014.positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-positive-psychology-3-great-insights/

Heffernan M, Griffin Q, McNulty R, Fitzpatrick J. Self-compassion and emotional intelligence in nurses.Int J Nurs Pract. 2010;16:366-373.

Kempton S. Mindful speaking: A practice that can change your reality. Yoga Journal. 2007.  yogajournal.com/yoga-101/talk-pretty

Mackenzie C, Poulin P, Seidman-Carlson R. A brief mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for nurses and nurse aids. Appl Nurs Res. 2006;19:105-109.

Parry J, Kalisch BJ. The path to staff appreciation. Nurs Manage. 2012;43(5):36-40.

Roberts P, Strauss K. The power of the positive. Am Nurs Today. 2015;10(7):13-14.

Zahed H. The power of spoken words. 2014. HuffPost. huffingtonpost.com/dr-hyder-zahed/the-power-of-spoken-words_b_6324786.html

The views and opinions expressed by Perspectives contributors are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or recommendations of the American Nurses Association, the Editorial Advisory Board members, or the Publisher, Editors and staff of American Nurse Journal. These are opinion pieces and are not peer reviewed.

1 Comment. Leave new

  • Awesome article Erika! I am in total agreement and could not of said it better myself. I just started my career as ADON at a Skilled Nursing Facility and I am following those exact tactics and beliefs you have written about. I believe in positive reinforcement and communication & feedback is key for reaching optimal outcomes. Day to day operations become so stressful, but I have put my heart & soul into turning the staff around and believing in our facility’s new management. Recently though, I overheard the administrator complaining to another member of the team about ‘all the texts she has been receiving from the DON & I’. We limit the amount of texts sent to our administrator to only ‘need to know’ re: patient & staff issues. I feel that if she was feeling overwhelmed with our communication to her, she needed to come to us for an effective resolution.
    Looking forward to reviewing your references as well!!!! : )


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