Understanding The Health Communication Triangle As A Nurse


The World Health Organization has declared the year 2020 as the International Year For Nurses and Midwives, and coincidentally, it seems as though nurses have been working more since the beginning of this year. Here in Nigeria, there is an outbreak of Lassa fever that has spanned across different states. On the other hand, there is the corona virus that is currently affecting the Chinese people. You may say, “It is just an outbreak.”

It is not just an outbreak. It is a pointer to show us the strength and weakness of the nursing profession and health system of the country at large. This is not a blog post to point fingers at any nurse or hospital, but rather a post to sensitize you on the importance of quality communication.

Here is a real scenario:
Before I left my nursing job in November 2019, there was a Lassa fever outbreak in the month of October. I noticed one thing at that moment, more patient turned down admission at the hospital, because they had the fear of been called a ‘suspected Lassa fever case’.

I understand that the human mind acts funny during outbreak; however the mind acts based on the information received.
I have come to realize that during an outbreak, there are usually different forms of news.

The truthful news
• The rumor
• The Religious debaters
• The false news

Hold on a bit. I will explain all of these forms of news each.

There is a market here in Owo that has been rumored to breed the Lassa fever virus. Are you surprised? I have also been surprised at how people talk bad about the market.
Think of this, what has a market place got to do with an epidemic deadly virus?
Several people were scared of this rumor, so the religious people decided to host crusades to heal the market. Praying is not totally a bad idea. We all need prayers. However, teaching and misleading people that Lassa fever is the devil’s handiwork is mere ignorance. On the long run, these news are circulated across the streets, quarters and houses, and people’s mind get stuck with false news.

Sadly, that people usually choose the false news over the truthful news. However, I think it is the fault of health workers.
When was the last time you tried to educate people in a commercial bus or taxi when you heard them say rubbish?
When was the last time you challenged that market woman circulating false news about a disease?
Why do you think people still choose to believe wrong news rather than the truthful and healthy news? It is because they are more false news flying around than the truthful news.

And this has brought me to write about the communication triangle.


I know you did mathematics in secondary school and you sure know what a triangle looks like. The communication triangle is an analog that is used to explain the communication between a nurse and her patient.

There are three elements of this triangle; the messenger, the message and the audience.
The Messenger: As a nurse, you have to convey several messages to your patients and that makes you a messenger. However, it is not enough to be called, “sisi nurse or aunty nurse.” Being a good messenger is more than just what your patients call you. it is about your reputation, knowledge base and skill.
For instance, Nurse Jide and Nurse Matthew both work in the orthopedic ward.

Nurse Jide is jovial, ready to answer her patients’ questions. Her patients always see her reading and learning something new. She is a skilled nurse.
Nurse Matthew frowns at her patients; she never answers her patients’ questions. it is obvious that she is only in for nursing for the money. She complains a lot.

If any of these two nurses are to health educate their patients on Lassa fever, which of the nurses do you think will be paid more attention to? You know the answer.

So are you are a jovial, and ever learning and teaching Nurse Jide or always frowning, lazy and sluggish Nurse Matthew? If you have been wondering why people never take your health advice serious, darling, check your reputation and knowledge base.

The Message: What is your message as a nurse? Your patient Mr Yakubu is about to leave the hospital walls. Mr Yakubu is a diabetic man, what will be your message for him at that time? Many nurses have the problem of conveying the important messages. Your message must be relevant, valuable and concise. You don’t have to mention all the enzymes in the mouth to explain digestion to a patient. You just need to explain in a simple language that they can easily understand. When you know and understand your message, you will know the right way to convey your message to your audience.

The Audience: Mr Yakubu is a Hausa man who understands neither English nor Yoruba. However, he understands a bit of Pidgin English. It will be wise that you communicate with him in the best way he can understand. Your audience may be just Mr Yakubu alone, or Mr Yakubu, his three wives and 6 undergraduate students.
Having understood the three elements of the communicate triangle, what has that got to do with nursing.

Nurses are known as the backbone of the healthy system, and it important that we are educated enough to educate our patients. If we want a more healthy community, then we must have to start maximizing and implementing this elements.

When health educating a patient, you must speak with authority. Let your patients connect with your bank of knowledge. Always remember that you need charisma, pedigree, knowledge and a clear message when talking to your audience. If we do not educate the public as nurses, we will keep fighting diseases that should have been prevented. Unfortunately, the public is ignorant and nurses are not willing to teach.

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