A therapeutic relationship is a close connection between a client and the health care professional. Such a relationship aims to establish a sense of trust among the individuals involved in therapy, which helps the nurse or any other health professionals to assist his/her client in the therapeutic process. Establishing a positive relationship is a crucial step in the therapeutic process and implementation of effective communication strategies can dramatically improve such a relationship. In fact, the major factor which contributed to almost 70% of mistakes in healthcare is the lack of proper communication (Boissy et al. 2016). In order to ensure safety and quality care depends upon concise, accurate and clear communication of patient’s data, observations, instructions, and assessments. As health care professionals deal with troubled people such as people with depression, with dementia, on a daily basis, it is their professional and ethical responsibility to effectively communicate with their patients to deliver proper care. In order to do so, they must ensure that the way they communicate with their clients is appropriate according to the guidance provided by the health care literature. Through the analysis of published literature, this essay illustrates the role of communication skills in healthcare and the way it affects health outcomes.
Active listening refers to a way of responding and listening to another individual which enhances mutual understanding. In the healthcare profession, active listening skill is of great importance as it facilitates the caregiving process. There is a strong correlation between the client’s ability to follow the advice and recommendation and the communication skills of health care providers. The ability of a clinician to clearly and succinctly explain, empathize and actively listen to the concerns and feedback of patients can have a profound effect on the functional outcomes in terms of health as well as on the overall satisfaction of the patients. As per the report of the Institute of Healthcare Communication (IHC), 1/3 of the adults with an illness that is chronic in nature, did not use their medicines due to cost concerns. However, they were not able to communicate the same to their health care provider (Foronda, MacWilliams & McArthur 2016). Through actively listening, care providers can build strong relationships with their clients, which would encourage the clients to open up express themselves. An example of poor execution of active listening skills is as follows:
Interviewer ‘Do you have Medicare?’
Interviewer ‘You have to have, you must have Medicare, do you have private health at all?’
Patient ‘Yes, I do.’
Interviewer ‘Do you know what it is?’
Patient ‘No. I’ve got it in my purse, would you like….’
Interviewer ‘No, no I’ll just write Medicare, because it’s easier for me. I won’t have to write that much’ (2:50)
Silence can demonstrate to the client that the nurse is actively interested in her answers. During such interviews, the interviewer should also display a certain degree of empathy In order to actively listen to the interviewee; the interviewer has to listen first. However, in the video, the interviewer asks a question and then answers it on her own. In such a scenario, the client might feel that his or her opinion is not necessary and that the interviewer does not care about her feedback. Later, the interviewer interrupts the client while she was talking and indirectly said that she wants to finish the interview as soon as possible. Such indiscretion and lack of active listening will inhibit the development of an effective therapeutic relationship between the interviewer and her client (Gilstrap & Bernier 2017). Interviewer should have displayed empathy while conducting the interview. In addition to this, the interviewer should have been patient and let the client take her time while answering the questions.
It refers to the usage of words and sounds as a medium of personal expression. Goffin & Mitchell (2016) mentioned that the way workforce communicate within the organization and with the clients creates a long-lasting impression. In healthcare, it is of utmost importance that care providers give clear and precise instructions to clients and communicate in an appropriate manner. Nurses should be respectful and courteous towards their clients and should ensure that they address the patients as they want to be addressed. Not only the words being said affect the relationship a care practitioner has with his or her clients, but the tone of the voice is also very important. Patients can sense the irritation and impatience in the voice and thus also react in a similar manner. An example of poor verbal communication is illustrated in the following dialogue.
Interviewer ‘What’s her name?’
Patient ‘no, Smine’
Interviewer ‘Sounds like swine’ (4:25)
In the above dialogue, the interviewer says that the surname of the client’s husband sounds like swine. No one would expect such behavior and especially not from a healthcare provider. As described earlier, the way health care professional communication with clients have a significant impact on their physical and mental health (Jennings, Bond & Hill 2018). Proper verbal communication allows nurses to effectively articulate themselves and provide clear directions to the clients. Nurses should display empathy and compassion in their verbal communication with their patients. It encourages patients to actively participate in the process and enhance the quality of the care.
Spoken words are not the only medium health care professionals communicate with each other. Non-verbal communication is also a vital element of an effective combination strategy. Non-verbal communication includes body language, gestures, expressions, etc. Such kind of communication is very important for a physician in order to give properly communicate with their clients (Meuter et al. 2015). Physical therapists who nod, smile and maintain appropriate eye contact are perceived to be more competent and caring than other therapists. On the other hand, improper non-verbal communication makes professionals appear detached and distant. In the interviews illustrated in the video, the nurse appeared to be uncaring mainly because of the way she non-verbally acted throughout the interview. Throughout the interview, she was chewing gum and sitting in an unbecoming manner. Nurses/interviewers should be aware of the way they non-verbally communicate with their clients. Vega-Jurado et al. (2015) Body language is the most crucial element of non-verbal communication. Physicians might not be consciously aware of the way their body is positioned and whether they are leaning backward or forwards. But such gestures reveal the degree of interest and involvement physicians have in the conversation (Nickoloff 2016). Non-verbal elements enhance the overall quality of communication. It can also help the health care professional to ascertain the emotional state of their clients and provide them a better understanding of their needs. Properly trained physicians can infer vital information by looking at the non-verbal cues of their patients, which results in better delivery of healthcare plans.
The way nurses nonverbally behave while dealing with clients has a significant impact on the outcomes. For instance, Parry et al. ( 2016) concluded in their research that behavior that appears to be distant, such as looking away and not smiling or nodding while communication with clients has an adverse impact on their cognitive and physical functioning. Furthermore, such behavior also contributes to the increase in medical litigations. For example, surgeons with harsh and dominant voices were much more likely to be sued for malpractice than other surgeons. However, health care providers can use the power of non-verbal communication to their advantage by being aware of them and using them empathize with their patients.
Ideally, health care outcomes should be based on clinical factors and competency of the physicians, but the literature suggests that behavioral and emotional factors also play a significant role in the outcomes (Schiavo 2013). Thus, healthcare providers should not neglect the dependency of effective health care on factors like proper communication through non-verbal mediums.
The literature mentioned above, makes it evident that effective communication between care providers and patients can significantly improve the entire healthcare process. Although, people assume that communication simply means exchanging words, but it takes much more than that to actually understand what the other party wants to convey. For health care professionals, effective communication is especially important because errors made by miscommunication can result in serious consequences. It is the moral and professional responsibility of health care providers to learn effective usage of verbal and non-verbal communication mediums in order to provide better care. Finally, professionals should not underestimate the role of empathy and humor in their communication to build rapport and establishing trust with their clients and build a relationship with them. Such a relationship allows patients to actively participate in the process which not only enables them to make choices for themselves but also shows that their nurses care.
Boissy, A, Windover, A, Bokar, D, Karafa, M, Neuendorf, K, Frankel, R, Merlino, J & Rothberg, M 2016, "Communication Skills Training for Physicians Improves Patient Satisfaction", Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 31, no. 7, pp. 755-761.
Foronda, C, MacWilliams, B & McArthur, E 2016, "Interprofessional communication in healthcare: An integrative review", Nurse Education in Practice, vol. 19, pp. 36-40.
Gilstrap, C & Bernier, D 2017, "Dealing with the Demands: Strategies Healthcare Communication Professionals Use to Cope with Workplace Stress", Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 73-81.
Goffin, K & Mitchell, R 2016, Innovation management,.
Jennings, W, Bond, C & Hill, P 2018, "The power of talk and power in talk: a systematic review of Indigenous narratives of culturally safe healthcare communication", Australian Journal of Primary Health, vol. 24, no. 2, p. 109.
Meuter, R, Gallois, C, Segalowitz, N, Ryder, A & Hocking, J 2015, "Overcoming language barriers in healthcare: A protocol for investigating safe and effective communication when patients or clinicians use a second language", BMC Health Services Research, vol. 15, no. 1.
Nickoloff, S 2016, "Capsule Commentary on Boissy et al., Communication Skills Training for Physicians Improves Patient Experiences", Journal of General Internal Medicine, vol. 31, no. 7, pp. 778-778.
Parry, R, Pino, M, Faull, C & Feathers, L 2016, "Acceptability and design of video-based research on healthcare communication: Evidence and recommendations", Patient Education and Counseling, vol. 99, no. 8, pp. 1271-1284.
Schiavo, R 2013, Health Communication, Wiley, Somerset.
Vega-Jurado, J, Juliao-Esparragoza, D, Paternina-Arboleda, C & Velez, M 2015, "Integrating Technology, Management and Marketing Innovation through Open Innovation Models", Journal of technology management & innovation, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 85-90.
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