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Body Language Every Nurse Should Know

Body Language Every Nurse Should Know

Got any other nonverbal body language tips?

Vlad Zachary | Scrubs Magazine

In the health care setting, life-or-death situations can spell high-flying emotions — not just from patients, but from team members and your nurse manager.

This guide to body language will help you “read” what a person may not necessarily be telling you. For example, want to know the secrets that your manager’s body language may be telling you? The nonverbal cues of different cultures? How about 3 easy ways body language can improve your work day, every day?

And consider this: When you study the postures of others, you also become more aware of your own behaviors. That way, you can modify your own body language for better communication.


Watch for these 5 subtle signs that may indicate your patient is in distress:

1. The “turtle effect”

The patient’s shoulders are one of the key indicators of weakness, insecurity and negative emotions. When the shoulders are rising toward the ears, they cause what is known in psychology as the “turtle effect,” and it’s a sure sign that the patient needs some kind of attention.

2. Hand wringing

Another universal sign that someone is stressed and concerned is hand wringing. Watch for white knuckles — if someone is clenching that tightly, they need something… and you’d better find out what it is.

3. The chin tuck

When we’re concerned for ourselves, or confidence is low, the chin will tuck in — forcing the nose down. This can be a sign of emotional or physical distress, so again, we’d better check.

4. Simultaneous reaction

Watch for the timing of protective body language such as crossing of arms or looking away. If these body cues coincide while you’re asking them a question, there may be something they’re hiding or uncomfortable discussing.

5. Eye Contact

If your patient avoids or will not hold your gaze, he or she may be feeling anxious.

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