It almost goes without saying that we have to give clear attention to what we say to patients/clients. We need to ensure that what we say is:
- appropriate (to the person’s age, language/culture and level of understanding).
But just as important is how we say it. At all times we must be:
- Courteous and respectful: we need to make sure we address patients/clients as they wish to be addressed. Some may prefer you to call them by their first names, while others might want a more formal address. The key thing is to find out what is right for each individual. And generally, ‘pet’ names – ‘love’, ‘dear’, ‘doll’ – shouldn’t be used.
- Encouraging: we should try to prompt patients/clients to communicate with us by saying encouraging things to them – ‘yes, do go on’, ‘can you tell me a bit more about that?’
Your tone of voice is also important.
Patients/clients don’t like to feel they’re holding you back from other duties, but they can get that feeling if your tone of voice is irritated or impatient. Things can get very busy in health care, and you might feel as if you’re being rushed off your feet, but try not to let that seep into your voice – try to stay calm and focused on the patient/client in front of you. With practice, you’ll be able to perfect this vital skill.
Example of good verbal communication.
Example of poor verbal communication