Ever felt frustrated that your message isn't understood? Ever felt nervous about speaking up?

Communicating with patients

Effective communication in the health workplace is essential to the delivery of safe, effective patient care. Human communication is complex and involves the exchange of ideas, information and feelings. Thus, effective communication is about sending messages that are as clear and simple as possible, as well as receiving information that others are sending to you, with as little misinterpretation as possible. Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver, particularly when one or both communicators are from different cultural and/or first language backgrounds. It�s a process that can be fraught with error, with messages muddled by the sender or misinterpreted by the recipient. When this isn�t understood, and addressed, it can cause confusion, frustration, wasted effort and missed opportunity for both people.

In health care there are many different situations which will require the application of particular communication strategies. However, basic principles that are relevant to communicating effectively in any situation include:

  • being aware of self (including your own communication style) and others
  • being clear and concise in what you say and/or write
  • displaying appropriate non-verbal language
  • listening actively
  • clarifying your understanding of what is being communicated to you
  • responding thoughtfully and respectfully

Communication skills are a vital key to personal and professional success. All new skills take time to refine, however, with effort and practice you can develop good, even exceptional, communication skills.

Communicating With patients (Video 26)

Thinking points

For Students

Use this video as a trigger for group discussion and/or personal reflection on the process of communicating with patients (and other people in the health workplace).

As you watch the video, some key points to think about are:

  • creating a good first impression
  • knowing who you are communicating with, the purpose of your communication and any barriers you might encounter such as cultural differences, age or gender differences etc.
  • being aware of your posture, facial expression, the tone of your voice and the speed at which you speak.
  • giving the other person your full attention and asking open questions to make sure you have understood what they communicating to you (including both thoughts and feelings)
  • checking that you and the person you are communicating with have reached the same understanding of what has been communicated.

For clinical staff

Use this video as a trigger for discussion with your colleagues and/or personal reflection on the process of helping students develop their skills for communicating with patients and others in the health workplace.

Key points to reflect on include:

  • the complexity of professional communication in the health workplace
  • the power of positive role modelling for students
  • appreciating students� position by putting yourself in their shoes
  • the effect of factors such as context, prior experience etc. on student anxiety and performance.