Body language every nurse should know


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.

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

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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