Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario


  • Health-care providers must gather information during their assessment processes to gain insight into the whole person not just their disease. Understanding who the person is, their culture, beliefs, language and literacy is all part of the exploration on assessment) & this must be reassessed over time as circumstances/needs change.  The following are tools to support assessment.
  • Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication Strategies presents some verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to assist nurses and members of the inter-professional team to set the stage for building genuine, trusting, and respectful person- and family-centred-care partnerships.
  • Introduce yourself (name) and your professional status (e.g., registered nurse, registered practical nurse, occupational therapist, doctor).
  • Explain your role, and the timeline of your involvement with the person’s care.
  • Ask the person how they prefer to be addressed and always address the person by this name.
  • Prior to initiating care, collaborate and seek the person’s agreement to proceed with care. This will ensure it is a good time for them and that you will have their attention.
  • When proceeding with care, take the time to explain the care step by step and provide information using clear, simple, and straightforward language.
  • Be aware of your body language, and be respectful when: (a) exploring the person’s story; (b) seeking answers related to their beliefs, values, culture, and what they know about their health and the impact of their health on their life; and (c) asking what they think they would like to have happen for their care.
  • Be reassuring when they are expressing their fears.
  • Do not rush the person. Provide them with time to process what is being said and to ask questions or provide feedback.
  • Without rushing, encourage the person to tell their story and explore with them: (a) what they understand and are feeling about their experience of health, and (b) what is most important to them for their care.
  • Use positive and non-judgmental responses when speaking. For example, use terms with positive associations, such as “health needs or diagnosis” instead of “problem.” When clarifying information provided by the person, re-state the information using the person’s words rather than applying your own language (e.g., “You said you eat chocolate every day” instead of “You don’t follow your diet”).
  • Accept, repeat, and validate your understanding of any information (including thoughts and feelings) that the person provides about their experience of health and their care.
  • Adjust your communication style (tone of voice, cadence, loudness of speech, pauses and silences) to accommodate the person’s needs (age and developmental stage, cognitive status, and language and literacy levels).
  • Act as a resource. Give clear information in the person’s desired form of communication (written, verbal) that identifies all members of the interprofessional team within the person’s circle of care.
  • Explore with the person how they want to raise concerns and ask questions, clarify information, and inquire who is responsible for their care.
  • Provide clear and timely information in ways that are affirming (supportive and sincere) and useful to the person, and confirm with them that the communication met their needs.
  • Reflect on – and ask the person, their family, and caregivers – whether your manner and style of communication is meeting their needs.
  • Actively listen without interrupting; be open; accept and validate what the person is saying.
  • Convey sympathetic presence and caring in order to deepen your understanding of the person’s needs (emotional intelligence).
  • Give the person your full attention and use direct eye contact (if culturally appropriate) to observe the person while they are speaking.
  • Display emotion that indicates warmth, kindness, friendliness, sadness, and compassion (as appropriate), demonstrating your sensitivity to the person’s verbalized thoughts, feelings, and situation.
  • Demonstrate respect and courtesy through displays of non-verbal behaviour, such as shaking hands on initial contact with the person (if culturally appropriate), acknowledging you are listening by nodding your head, and remaining silent so the person can speak without being interrupted or rushed.
  • Use touch if appropriate to offer reassurance to the person, keeping in mind some individuals are uncomfortable with touch (e.g., culture and past or present abuse).
  • Use actions that display efficiency and competence in your delivery of care (e.g., showing efficiency, organization and skill when initiating an intravenous line).


Person and Family Centred Care
Point of Care Resources