Communication 101 for Healthcare Professionals

by Howard Gerber on August 13, 2015

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communication tips for healthcare professionalsMiscommunication among healthcare workers can lead to a lot of problems. From poor working relationships with co-workers to medical errors, miscommunication is a big deal. Good communication skills are critical between co-workers and when talking with physicians and patients. Even if your communication skills are good, almost everyone can do a little something to improve their ability to communicate. Consider some of the following suggestions:

Be upfront without being aggressive.

It won’t do anyone any good if you dodge the issues. Good communication involves being upfront and saying what you mean. Keep in mind that telling it like it is does not mean you should be rude or overly aggressive.

Always use respectful language.

The fastest way to get someone to stop listening to you is by using disrespectful language. Whether you are talking to a patient or a co-worker, always talk to them the same way to want to be spoken to.

Keep your audience in mind.

You cannot use the same language in all situations. For example, if you are talking to a doctor about test results, it makes sense to use medical jargon if needed. But talking about the same thing with a patient or family member may require using different terminology. Using clear, concise language can help you explain something to a non-medical person.

Clarify if you don’t understand something.

Mistakes in medicine are often the result of miscommunication. Miscommunication can involve interpreting something differently because you assumed things or were unsure. Always clarify something if you are unsure. Whether you are talking to a supervisor or taking a physician’s order, if something is not clear, double check to make sure you understand.

Practice closed-looped communication.

When you’re taking a doctor’s order whether in person or over the phone, make it a habit of reading back their order. Closed-looped communication reduces medical mistakes and communication errors.

Focus on the issue not personality conflicts.

You’re not going to love everyone. If conflicts arise with co-workers, supervisors or even patients, try to remember to focus on what is right in front of you. Considering past experiences or personality conflicts with the individual involved won’t help you resolve the matter. Avoid bringing past emotions into the current issue you are working to fix.

Keep your cool.

In life, there are bound to be conflicts. When you work in healthcare, emotions can run high. After all, people’s lives are at stake. If situations develop where you feel you are being spoken to unfairly, your first reaction may be to get defensive or mad. But being angry can interfere with your ability to communicate well. If possible, take a minute to collect yourself. Take a few deep breaths and try to gain some perspective before continuing the conversation.

Remember to listen.

When you think of good communication skills, you may think it involves the ability to speak well or communicate clearly and effectively. While that is part of good communication, the ability to fully listen to what someone else is saying is equally important. It can be hard for some people to stop and really listen to someone else’s point, but listening is an especially important communication tool for healthcare professionals.

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