Communication is a skill that every healthcare professional needs. However, not everyone is naturally good at it. Generally, healthcare professionals have to interact with many people every day. In addition, they often belong to diverse groups of educational, cultural and social backgrounds. So, are you looking for ways to develop your communication skills in healthcare? Then you have reached just the right place!
Here is a guide for you that can help you to improve communication skills in healthcare. This guide will help you master your interpersonal skills for your day-to-day practice. Moreover, you’ll stand out from other health workers.
Table of Contents
What are The Types of Communication in Healthcare?
Medical institutions practise two types of communication skills in healthcare. They are –
1. Interhospital Communication
Interhospital communications are all about sharing communication among multiple hospitals or clinics. This includes the exchange of information and resources between them. A few examples are:
- Transferring patients from one facility to another
- Sending medical files
- Moving vital medical equipment.
Doing so much requires clear communication between experienced health workers. However, healthcare centres often face challenges in communicating effectively.
Inadequate communication raises costs significantly. For example, inefficient access to patients’ medical documents creates a need for duplicate tests. Therefore, improvements in communication skills in healthcare can save valuable time, money and effort.
2. Intrahospital Communication:
Likewise, problems with communication occur among personnel within the same healthcare centre. It is called Intrahospital communication. This type of communication occurs within a singular institution. For instance, it can involve coordinating room changes and setting up surgeries. Some other examples are further assignments of tests, scheduling appointments, etc.
When communication is inadequate, the efficiency of each process tends to decrease naturally. Also, it potentially results in unnecessary costs or even danger to patients. This may result in patient record delays, lack of procedural coordination, and even serious medical mishaps.
What is the Importance of Effective Communication Skills in Healthcare?
When a patient enters into healthcare centres, they are sick and emotionally fatigued. Generally, a lot of the patients deal with difficult emotions such as hopelessness and anger.
But in reality, these are defence mechanisms, which help them to adjust to the new situation. So, have to be well understood and taken care of by healthcare professionals.
1. Sound Understanding of a Patient’s Condition and Needs
Doctors and nurses provide patients with care from the start to the end of their treatment. These health workers assess, evaluate, and work to understand a patient’s condition.
As a doctor, you have to establish sound communication with your patients. Sometimes, you might even need to learn about their personal details. Examples of such details are family background, medical history, lifestyle, habits, and more. And doing so is important to understand your patient’s major health challenges.
You have to talk to your patient and make them understand what you want to know about them. After that, you have to listen to them actively. This can yield important information which may help you to cure him in an easier way.
If you are a nurse, then you are the bridge between the patient and other team members. So, quality interactions are critical to providing the best medical care.
2. Understanding the Emotional State of Patients
The quality of your interaction with the patients can impact how well you understand them. That especially applies to their physical and emotional well-being. Especially if you are a nurse, you can provide better care if you can communicate better with them.
Your interaction with patients can yield valuable information on their long-term health. Moreover, making decisions on appropriate treatment plans becomes easier.
3. Understanding Patients of Different Age and Gender
As a health worker, you have to deal with patients of different ages. To illustrate, the psychology of a kid is different from the psychology of a teen. Similarly, the behaviour of a teen is different from the behaviour of an adult.
Without great communication skills, it would be tough for you to interact with patients of different ages. And, without interacting, it would be very challenging to treat your patients properly.
Likewise, you need to communicate well with both male and female patients. Therefore, you need to have good knowledge and courtesy on how to communicate effectively.
4. Realising Social Determinants
There are some social determinants of health. Also, social, physical and environmental conditions can affect a person’s health. Certain socioeconomic challenges can increase the rates of physical conditions. Some examples are- poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, and lack of education. And such conditions can even lead to greater health problems.
Therefore, communicating effectively with patients can help you to understand their social determinants. Moreover, this may improve the patient’s overall health and wellness.
5. Tracking Changes in Care
When a nurse communicates patient needs with the medical team, it can bring great benefits. This lets the doctor target clinical strategies toward specific patient preferences. Also, doing so means you can track patient improvement regularly, almost in real-time.
As a nurse, you have to be a good listener. So, frequently check in on your patients. Being in physical distress takes a psychological toll on humans in general. So if you interact well with patients, that might take away a lot of their nervousness and distress.
6. Creating Synergy
There are doctors, nurses and many other employees in a hospital dedicating themselves to the wellness of patients. For this purpose, effective communication between all the doctors, nurses and staff members is essential.
Nurses have to report the health condition of a patient from time to time to the doctor. Likewise, doctors instruct nurses, how to manage the patient’s condition. So, effective communication is indispensable for creating synergy in the medical care unit.
7. Identifying Specialised Needs
You should always remember that a patient may have needs outside their medical care. For example, some patients may have particular religious beliefs or specialised dietary needs.
You can ensure this information only by communicating properly. Also, this information will ensure the quality of care isn’t compromised and that the patient’s requirements are properly met.
Finally, people differ in their needs for communication. Some want to be listened to. On the other hand, others want explanations for everything they are going through. Healthcare professionals must communicate accordingly.
A Few Effective Communication Skills in Healthcare:
Certain components of effective communication are necessary irrespective of profession. Whereas some are more relevant depending on the job. The communication skills in healthcare that are important and useful in general are as follows:
1. Verbal Communication
Verbal communication is the key to interaction. So, you should aim to speak with clarity, honesty, and accuracy. Firstly, it’s important to know who your audience is. Secondly, speak according to the person’s age, gender, culture, and level of health literacy.
If you are disturbed by something else, never show this to your patient. Thirdly, be aware of your tone. Otherwise, establishing communication will be tough.
You can do the following things to make verbal communication better-
- Show your interest and encourage your patients by asking, “Could you tell me a bit more about the matter?”
- Always use the patient’s first name or name of choice. For this purpose, ask them which one s/he prefers.
- Talk using easy words and avoid technical jargon and medical terms.
2. Non-verbal Communication
Besides talking, using elements of non-verbal communication are equally important. For this purpose, be careful about your facial expressions, eye contact, body language, gestures, posture, and tone of voice. After all, they are instrumental to creating quality rapport.
A vibrant smiling can go a long way. You can also-
- Be attentive towards patients.
- Nod your head while listening.
- Lean forward while sitting down to let your patient know that you’re engaged.
- Use polite body language that will convey respect.
3. Active Listening
The term active listening means listening with the intent of understanding the person who’s talking. While doing so, being focused on the person speaking is the important thing to do. Oftentimes, we are busy contemplating what to say next instead. So that’s the mistake you want to avoid.
Active listening is the highest and most effective form of listening. For doing so, it requires complete attention and engagement while interacting with others.
This skill is important not only for doctors and nurses but also for other executives. This acts as a tool for building trust and commitment between each other. Basically, active listening includes both verbal and non-verbal communication skills in healthcare. For example:
- Not interrupting while the other person is talking
- Making appropriate gestures and replying briefly to let the other person know that you’re engaged.
4. Written Communication
So, the fact that written communication skills in healthcare are integral to the job is a no-brainer. As a medical professional, you will be responsible for creating and updating patient medical records. However, it is necessary that records are accurate and updated. If you can ensure this, then your patients are likely to receive the best possible care.
Also, don’t forget to protect patient confidentiality. You can-
- Keep handwriting clear, use simple language.
- Make sure to note accurate date and time
- Keep your notes updated
5. Educating Patient
You have to inform patients and family members of the patient’s health conditions and diagnoses. In addition, explaining treatment plans and medication protocols to your patients is also crucial. This skill is especially important for nurses who work with patients and their families. This includes providing health and education counselling.
Poor understanding and lack of knowledge can cause patients and their family members to feel anxious and stressed out. So, make sure that they understand what they are told. Therefore, you can say-
- “I’d like you to repeat back the information to make sure you remember those.”
- “Would you please repeat the instructions for taking this medicine back to me?”
- “Let’s review what we have discussed now. Could you explain, please?”
6. Making Personal Connections
It is also important to get to know the patient as a person. Because building this connection is critical so that your patients feel safe and comfortable.
Creating a meaningful relationship with patients can improve trust and increase outcomes. Here are a few ideas:
- Spend some extra time every day with every patient
- Try keeping up a cheerful demeanour
- Show interest in their well-being and overall happiness
- Share your own experiences if you think they relate to them and help their situation
7. Cultural Awareness
As a healthcare worker, you will likely work in a different setting. Similarly, you will deal with people who come from a wide range of cultural, social and educational backgrounds. Every patient and colleague is unique. That’s why it’s important to be sensitive and aware.
For example, notice the patient’s fluency in language and choose your vocabulary accordingly. Moreover, if the patient can’t speak your language, you can bring in a translator if necessary and possible. With transgender patients, make sure that you are using their preferred name and preferred pronoun.
8. Compassion and Trust
Showing compassion is vital as a communication skill in the healthcare sector. Firstly, compassion can help in promoting fast recovery. Secondly, it can treat acute illness, enhance the management of chronic illness, and relieving anxiety. Therefore, you can deliver compassionate treatment and care by putting yourself in the patient’s shoes. Additionally, try to understand their needs and expectations.
Trust is important in active communication. However, building trust may take time. And some patients particularly get nervous in the ambience of healthcare-related places. So, it’s important to make your patients feel as comfortable as possible. Moreover, try to build a trusting relationship with other doctors and nurses.
To inspire trust, you should-
- Speak the truth
- Share information without ambiguity
- Be ready to admit mistakes
Pro Tips: Great communication improves the quality of care. And it is the prerequisite for building a genuine and meaningful relationship. However, effective communication requires training and practice. So, don’t forget to have a look at the Communication Skills in Health and Social Care course. Its comprehensive syllabus can do wonders for your communication skills in healthcare.
Get Started With Developing Communication Skills in Healthcare Today
Healthcare professionals need to optimise and moderate their connection with patients. That’s the way to generate the best possible outcomes. That is because both over-bonding and under-communicating can amount to inadequate professionalism. For this purpose, effective communication skills in healthcare are essential.
Learning communication skills in healthcare should be part of your education and job. Also, earning such skills makes your job easier and lively. Because by practising this, you will get plenty of chances to bond with patients and your colleagues effectively. So, start practising your communication skills from today!
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