Humans always have the opportunity to improve in every area of their life. From teachers to lawyers and even medical professionals, there are unlimited personal growth opportunities if we learn to seize the moment. For medical professionals, it may seem like all of their knowledge is at capacity. They went to undergraduate school, aced their med school entrance exams, went to medical school and completed a residency. Some when to nursing school, passed their exams and started their professional career. All medical professionals have to have some type of formal training or PALS certification before embarking on a rewarding and selfless career. After that education, one may wonder how they can improve as a medical professional. Aside from annual training, gaining extra education may seem redundant or useless. Switching jobs is not always the answer either. One of the best ways to overall be a better medical professional is to improve communication skills.
Communication skills can truly be the difference in positive or negative patient experience. For some careers, interacting with other humans isn’t required. However, for the medical field, those professionals are seemingly always interacting with patients or colleagues. Communications is key to success in the medical industry. Knowing all of the terminologies and being an expert in diagnosing someone is not enough. Learning how to understand patients through communication is crucial to the success of someone’s medical career. Communication is so nuanced, that learning basic communication theories is not enough when it comes to talking with patients.
As a medical professional, it is their job to be a listener. Theoretically, communication involves a sender and receiver. The sender decodes a message that is then sent to the receiver to encode and provide feedback. That streamline of theory seems simple and easy enough, but if even one step of that is interpreted incorrectly by either party, it faces massive negative implications. For example, when the sender decodes a verbal message, his or her nonverbal message may throw off how the receiver encodes it. Relating to medical interactions, if a physician is listening to a patient explaining their health issues, and when the doctor asks certain questions, the patient looks away when answering, the doctor may assume that the patient is lying and therefore, may have received mixed signals of communication. It is up to the patient and the doctor to both have good, open and honest communication with one another.
A communication study showed that the possibility a physician would be sued for malpractice is heavily reliant on their communication skills. When it came down to the number of physicians that were involved with malpractice suits, the common factors were not the actual medical procedures themselves, but the communication that the physicians had with their patients. Doctors who had higher amounts of malpractice suits were frequently reported as not having good listening skills when it came to their patients. They were either reported as being uninterested or essentially acting as if the patient didn’t know anything. Doctors who took the time to ask patients questions and who also asked patients if they had any questions had lower amounts of malpractice suits. Some of the malpractice suits were after doctors had referred patients to someone else because they still felt if the doctor had not listened to their concerns. Communication is crucial when it comes to physicians finding solutions to their patient’s problems.
To better enhance their communication skills, physicians can take time to learn better listening skills. This can seem like an oblivious thing, but for many, effective communication skills are learned. Not everyone is a natural and charismatic communicator. People with outstanding communication skills are able to listen and ask the right questions. The questions they do ask when listening aren’t superficial or for their own personal gain, they are to truly better understand the details of what someone is talking about. Often, good communicators ask questions that keep the conversation flowing without changing the subject. Another key element that a communicator has is letting other people ask questions if needed. This is especially important in the case of physicians. Allowing patients the opportunity to ask questions at the end of an exam or visit shows that the doctor cares. Excellent communicators show empathy through their actions. They let the person know that they actually care and are interested in what they are talking about. They make that person feel valued and worth their time. A good communicator will make a person have reduced uncertainty which will alleviate any worries or anxieties they may have previously come into the visit with. Especially in the field of medicine, making a patient and their families feel worry-free can be very important for the outcome of a situation. Great medical communicators make every patient feel as though they are the only patient that matters at that moment and that their problems will have a logical and attainable solution.