Personal and Professional Health Care Communication
Communication is a skill learned and developed overtime and is used to convey various information, express emotions, and desires. In the health field, it not only important to have a continual line of communication but also one that is effective. According to Brashers and Babrow (1996) “Communication in health and illness constitutes one of the most vital of human experiences” (p. 243). Health care communication requires careful study combined with the right approach and understanding. The objectives of this paper is to define health care communication, state the importance of effective communication with healthcare professionals, clients, and patients, state the importance of communication to health outcomes, state how the lack of effective communications contributes to poor health outcomes, and state the theories and principles of therapeutic communication in healthcare settings for the healthcare professional. Definition of healthcare communication
According to Calderon and Beltran (2004) health communication is “the dissemination of understandable and usable information that concerns itself with health” (p. 2). Health communication is a unique and complex process, and its delivery is dependent on the population served. Communication at times can become distorted because little attention is given to the way in which it is affected. However, as healthcare providers, it is imperative to understand that effective healthcare communication encompasses understanding, caring for the patient holistically and developing a therapeutic relationship.
The importance of effective communication as it relates to healthcare professionals, and patients. Communication is considered to be effective when an understanding is established between the parties that are communicating. The health field is a reservoir that allows people of diverse culture and ethnicity to interact; therefore it is important that an effective communication system is established among the healthcare professionals. The provision of care requires the collaborative effort of various disciplines, each with different views and pattern of communication. Respect and receptivity is essential to find common grounds so that effective communication is possible. Communication, which can either be verbal or nonverbal, should be used in such a way that it opens room for expressions and thoughts this enables collaborative efforts and proper planning to be implemented, leading to the successful delivery of quality patient care. The health field comprises of various specialties with professionals who work together as a unit, sharing information to maintain continuity of quality care, therefore communication among these workers should be relayed in a way that will be beneficial to the patients.
When communication is compromised, it may deem the care given to patients to be unsafe, and mediocre. According to Calderon and Beltran (2004), “language is the most common behavior exhibited by mankind. Its use at all tiers determines quality of healthcare and quality of life for healthcare consumers: patients and their families” (p. 1). The ability to develop an effective communication system with patients and families can at times be challenging, but it facilitates commonality, understanding, and compliance with treatment. According to Allen, Chapman, O’Connor and Francis (2007) “Language is the medium by which communication is both conveyed and received” (p. 47). However, effective communication is not limited to verbal communication but includes nonverbal. This form of communication gives insight to healthcare workers what patients are communicating (Arnold & Boggs, 2011). Possessing the ability to relate to patients and family through the use of effective communication, builds trust, and may enable patients’ willingness to divulge pertinent information that can aid to improve care, thus shortens recovery time and hospitalization.
The importance of effective communication to health outcomes For someone to be in an unfamiliar environment, not knowing if he or she will make it out alive can become overwhelming. This fear can lead to the modification of behavior that will be manifested in various ways. Grover (2005) stated, “The study of communication is a vital part of understanding human behavior. Indeed, the concept of communication is an integral part of every profession, academic field, and of society as a whole” (p. 177). Through effective communication, the health needs of patients can be addressed in a more efficient, and effective manner, this will lead to a reduction in patients’ fears and stress. Effective communication allows medical personnel in their field of specialty to work interdependently ensuring that the correct approach and treatments are administered. In the medical environment, effective communication is geared toward enhancing patients’ satisfaction, and improving health. It allows information to be transmitted with clarity, and goals tailored patient specific. Patients will understand the plan of care, feel empowered, and be willing to comply with treatment and medication regimen. Informed patients will make better choices resulting in improved health.
The lack of effective communications contributes to poor health outcomes. According to Smith, Margolius and Ross (1982) “It is generally acknowledged among health professionals that effective communication skills are essential in caring for others” (p. 42). However with the current healthcare system, in which healthcare workers operate interdependently, allows room for medical errors. Because of the numerous amounts of healthcare personnel that comes in contact with a patient during his or her period of hospitalization, the chance of information being omitted, misplaced, misunderstood, or simply overlooked may occur. This miscommunication can impact gravely on patients to the point where it becomes fetal. Calderon and Beltran (2004) mentioned that ineffective communication permits reduction in quality care, leading to poor health outcomes. Ineffective communication, whether through verbal or nonverbal expressions creates a breeding ground for medication error and other medical dilemmas. According to Calderon and Beltran (2004) “linguistic and language barriers are arguably among the most important barriers influencing access to care, assess within a healthcare delivery system, quality of care, patient compliance, self-efficacy, and health outcomes especially” (p. 4). Although verbal communication is most often used, written communication at times can be a pitfall in health communication. With the advent of electronic charting patients medical information has
become more accessible. However, there are facilities that still uses continuing note to communicate information. Notes that illegible breads frustration and hampers the continuation of care. It reduces efficiency and may affect the effectiveness of treatment. This eventually increases the time patients’ spends in the hospital.
Theories and principles of therapeutic communication in healthcare settings The theories of communication are associated with a constellation of related beliefs. However, in the healthcare setting, it is deemed that for communication to be effective there has to be the in-cooperation of therapeutic communication. This form of communication involves the application of principles to meet the goals and satisfaction of patients, by healthcare workers willingness to give of self. According to Severtsen (1990), “the helper must be willing to be aware (knowledgeable and genuine) of himself or herself; the helper must be able to feel empathy; and the person being helped (client) must be willing to be explored” (p. 190-192). The theories and principles of therapeutic communication address the expression of care through the use of touch, facial expression, posture, gestures, empathy, interest, and respect with healthcare professionals’ possessing the ability to recognize and understand physical behaviors, verbal, and nonverbal communication that is incongruent. Therapeutic communication is client centered and addresses the needs of patients in a holistic manner. This helps to form a stress reducing, health centered, trusting type of relationship between healthcare workers and patients. Conclusion
In health, it is essential that communication is effective. It should be with clarity and communicates understanding among health workers and patients. The lack thereof may compromise the health of patient resulting in fetal outcomes. However, communication is not completely effective unless therapeutic communication is implemented because this is one of the most valuable tools used to build trust.
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