Clear communication

Listening, observing and ensuring that communication is two-way are essential healthcare skills, whether you are dealing with patients, families or colleagues

Listening, observing and ensuring that communication is two-way are essential healthcare skills, whether you are dealing with patients, families or colleagues.

Abstract

In health care, effective communication can directly affect positive outcomes. Ineffective or poor communication can cost lives, be it by a missed diagnosis, a medication error or treatment delay.

Julie Parry, a registered nurse and managing director of Cordant Occupational Health Services, says: ‘We need to be aware of the barriers in communication, such as language, age, gender and different cultures; how do we overcome these? Do we ask for feedback from colleagues and patients in how we are perceived, or do we rush, pre-judge, bark orders, avoid eye contact or cross our arms defensively?’

For Ms Parry, communication techniques must start with listening – hearing what is being said, and also reading between the lines.

‘Effective listening and observation require a conscientious effort to understand what the individual is trying to communicate to you,’ she says. ‘You need to be focused, not rushed or distracted. This extends to colleagues, patients and family alike. Put down the phone, stop multitasking and listen.’

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This article was first published in print in Nursing Standard: volume 30, issue 24

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