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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

Patient’s Family Members

When communicating with a patient’s family members, watch for these subtle body angles that speak volumes:

1. Leaning away

We lean away from things and people we don’t like, even from coworkers, when they say things we don’t agree with. If a nurse notices this behavior, it’s a sure sign that some part of the communication needs to be clarified.

2. Crossing of arms

A sudden crossing of the arms during a conversation could also indicate discomfort. Reading all these signs correctly could greatly improve the interaction and the customer satisfaction — in this case, the patient’s family members.

3. Intense eye contact

While direct and prolonged eye contact typically signifies openness and engagement, an exaggerated ‘hard’ stare’ is a sign that a patient’s family member may be feeling hostile.

Nonverbal Cues in Different Cultures

A medical setting is often the crossroads for people of different cultures and backgrounds. Body language that may be normal for Westerners may be seen as rude or hostile to people from other parts of the world. offers these basics that you should know when dealing with patients, families and coworkers of a different culture:

1. Handshake

The handshake is regarded as the universal gesture of greeting. However, even this simple gesture takes on its own nuance in different cultures. For instance, in America and Canada, and Germany it’s custom to give a firm handshake while the French prefer a soft, quick handshake. The Japanese couple their handshake with a bow. When greeting a person from the Middle East, be sure to place the free hand on the forearm of the other person when shaking their hand.

2. Bowing

Bowing also common as a form of greeting in Asian cultures. East Asians such as the Japanese bow with their hands pressed to their sides. The depth of the bow signals the amount of respect you are paying to the person you greet. Other variations of the bow include the Pakistani ’salaam’ – bowing with the palm of the right hand on the forehead. People from Cambodia and Laos bow with hands in front of their chests.

3. Hugging and kissing

A hospital or clinic is filled with hugging and kissing every day as families greet and comfort their loved ones, and often times to show gratitude towards the nurses and staff. The customary hug and kiss can differ from culture to culture. For instance, men in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Eastern Europe and Middle East exchange kisses on the cheek. Hawaiians include an exchange of breath called the “aha” while hugging. The Maori have a greeting called ‘hongi’ which includes the pressing together of noses.

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