We have been watching the articles go past on social media and in the news about our communications in the NHS. How do patients hear us? How do we hear them? Are we saying it right?
NHS England has produced five handy 'how to' videos for Good communication in maternity services and the NHS Confederation has put forward its own acronym buster for patients and clinicians alike. So how are we communicating to each other? If we are to have a shared vision and individualized care in partnership with the service user, surely our discourses should provide mutual understanding?
When service users enter the NHS arena in search of high quality care, their fear and vulnerability ensure that their senses remain on high alert. They remember everything we clinicians say and take everything on board. As such, we are in a unique position to make their experience a positive or a negative one. If our clients are ready sponges awaiting knowledge, advice and collaborative care, then what a fabulous opportunity we have to lead them towards self efficacy and healing!
Yet if our body language, the atmosphere we create, the language we use and even our very presence scream negativity, we are in danger of ostracizing the very people we would like to empower. We would all like to ensure that our patients are the ones with choice and power in their care decisions, yet with communication barriers in place, we are hindering the very people we are trying to empower.
What can we do?
- Avoid acronyms and abbreviations in our language.
- Use individualized language skills to suit the service user (i.e: Speak on their level)
- Take a moment to evaluate how your body language may look to your patient. Are you open? approachable? On a level with your patient?
- Be open! - Patients can always hear behind the curtain...
- Ensure a patients dignity is in place before you approach conversation
- Remember that you have the power to either enhance or rescind patient experience through communication alone, so that you may continually audit and improve your communicating practises.
Many of our students focus their leadership projects upon communication in the NHS workplace. This topic is relevant and applicable in many scenarios. So lets start the conversation...