Body language every nurse should know

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In the healthcare 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.

Patients | Coworkers | Manager | Patient’s Family | Different Cultures | Improve Your Workday

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Vlad Zachary

"America’s Professional Coach" Vlad Zachary is a leading expert in career and professional coaching with award-winning and world-recognized publications. He is the CEO of, founder of, and the author of the DVD Mastering the Job Interview and several e-books on healthcare, communications, psychology and career development.

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5 Responses to Body language every nurse should know

  1. Philip

    I think this is a very interesting article with good cues to tune in to when dealing with people. The nature of our job focuses on interpersonal relationships, and oftentimes these relationships have to be formed in times of extreme stress and anxiety for the receiving end, the patient. Taking nonverbal cues is extremely important and I think the author details many of these in an effective manner. Would love more details about patient interaction. Eye contact is another big factor and sign of a person’s comfort level along with pacing in the room. I like the section about body angles which can be very important when doing family education- a family member that leans in and is engaged is more likely to be absorbing the information as opposed to the person that sits far away from you and avoids eye contact. I thought the co-worker and manager section was interesting because I would not have thought to analyze a person with hands behind the head or on the hips but I will after reading this. Something else that is extremely important for healthcare professionals to remember is taking into account various cultural practices and differences. Some cultures may exhibit a body language or nonverbal cue that could be taken as rude to what you view as norm, but in their culture it is customary such as avoiding eye contact or sitting in a certain position. Be open to nonverbal cues but also be aware that some people may interpret cues differently than you.

  2. Judy

    How thrilled I was to find more and more males going into the nursing profession. But there is no doubt that the male nurse has a totaly different relationship w/ the doctors. Even the patients assume because the sex of the nurse is male that he must be a doctor and very few of the nurses correct that assumption. I have been nurse for 40 years and do not believe that all male nurses are superior to me because of their sex.The whole story has to be RESPECT and this is something that has to be earned not a given because of birth rights.

  3. scottman

    5. Eye Contact

    Doesn’t apply to all patients. I suffer from severe headaches, eye contact is disturbing, impossible to hold a gaze and talk or listen at the same time. I get distracted. If Doc talks to me and i look at him i can’t understand everything being and i also forget what i was going to say. Suddenly my memory blocks and words i just had in mind vanishes but turning my eye or looking at an other direction everything gets better and words come to mind again. Also usually my head and eyes look downwards for the most part. However as i try hard not to look down to avoid miss understanding of my body language, it also makes the headache worse, there is being times i have vomited by struggling not to look downwards and try to hold a gaze at physicians offices. And a drop of a needle on the floor is distracting, sound sensitive and takes my attention away when Doc clicks the computer mouse while there for treatment, the sound of the clicks worsens not only the headache but feel pain through the ear going straight right to middle of the head and feels like it is something physical touching the pain inside of the head. In short it really depends on the disease.

  4. I struggle so hard with body language. My face always gives me a way. Part of me really hates this about myself the other part is really wants to maintain this level of honesty and openness.

  5. Hi Scottman. I have Aspergers Syndrome (basically, High Functioning Autism) I have been nursing now for 50 years. I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 58 years old. Getting a diagnosis has revolutionised my life. May I suggest you talk with a professional who has a good grounding in diagnosing Aspergers. I can remember years ago when I was unable to listen to my pastor read from the Bible and for me to be unable to follow by reading my own Bible at the same time. Lots more examples ie. unable to look anyone in the eye when talking to them. I just can’t do it. I now cope with that by looking at people’s mouth. Not many are aware that I’m not actually looking into their ( very scary) eyes. If you want – you may contact me by e-mail: