Within a healthcare setting, it is vital that healthcare professionals are able to establish a trusting relationship between themselves and their service users as well as their colleagues. One way in which this relationship can be gained is through communication and empathy. This assignment will define both empathy and communication and how it is used in a variety of forms.
Communication is a two- way process where meaning is stimulated in the mind of others using verbal and non-verbal messages.” (Grover, 2005) Effective communication is determined by the mutual giving and receiving of information in a style that produces understanding and awareness of the persons communicating. Healthcare communication is any human communication that deals with the assessment, delivery, or evaluation of healthcare. It can take place on several levels, including interpersonal communication, small group communication, organizational communication and mass communication. (Northouse & Northouse, 1998)
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This definition will further be evaluated using a case study based on a couple’s discharge arrangements. Mrs Singh and her husband are invited to a multi-disciplinary team meeting to discuss the needs of Mrs Singh at home as she is to be discharged following major bowel surgery.
According to Fisher.A, (2006), ‘Communication is the interaction between two or more people. This is a two-way process of giving and receiving information.’ In relation to this definition communication can only truly be accomplished once the intended information has been received processed and a new message is sent back. Within a healthcare setting, communication can take a number of different forms; these includes linguistic communication, paralinguistic and nonverbal.
Linguistic refers to any spoken or written language that is used to relay messages between one or more persons. This type of communication is made effective only if both the sender and the receiver show a degree of social co-ordination, willingness to actively listen and the language used mirrors the language of the receiver. (Fisher.A, 2006), (Hanes,T 2010).
Within the case study, the use of verbal communication was blocked by a number of different barriers. The healthcare professionals failed to identify the individual needs of Mr and Mrs Singh which was English not being their first language. As English was used as the chosen language for this meeting, it meant that the couple were unable to receive and process the information that was being delivered in order to make a response. This led to a lack of interaction between the couple and the team and ultimately deterred the meaning of verbal communication. Involving an interpreter would have made the couple more comfortable and confident to communicate with the team. Knowing that the couple’s English is poor,the team should have ensured that they do not use medical terminology that would not be understood by the recipient, as well as slowing down and annunciating their words clearly.
Paralinguistic and Nonverbal communication is communication without the use of spoken words; this refers to the environment and body language. This type of communication can give a deeper context to the intended message which can alter the meaning in a positive and negative way. There are many ways in which service users and health worker communicate non-verbally both consciously and subconsciously. This includes facial expression, body position, proximity, touch, gestures and eye contact. (Fisher,A. 2006)
This method of communication was not effectively achieved in the case study. The positioning of the team in comparison to the service users gave the impression of superiority. With the couple only being able to speak minimal English, they would have felt insecured and alone. The staff should have made all efforts to ensure the comfort of the client is paramount.This would have been achieved if they were positioned to enabled a direct level of eye contact. In a healthcare setting eye contact is a key feature in non-verbal communication as it shows that the other person is listening as well as showing the level of respect you have for the person you are communicating with. The facial expressions of the doctors’ gives the couple the impression that they are not interested and with their limited English they are mainly reliant on the body language of the team. With the team having negative body language,it gives negativity to the conversation. Mr and Mrs Singh were subconsciously communicating non-verbally with the team using facial expressions and physical movements. They appeared to be confused which was further confirmed by their intermittent nods. Healthcare professionals are responsible for recognising when a client does not understand what is being communicated to them in order to reopen the lines of communication. During this meeting, the team failed to do so and consequently the meeting ended with the couple still in a state of confusion. The high tone in which the information was being delivered alongside the excessive
background noise came across intimidating to the service users. This could have been improved if the team had made better preparation prior to the meeting such as the location and time of day when the meeting would be held. Through having a quieter
environment would have eliminated the need for the nurse to elevate the tone of her voice which the couple would have felt less intimidated and more relaxed and open to get involved.
Within any form of communication the use of empathy is paramount if a healthcare professional is to develop a positive relationship with their client. Empathy can be describe as the ability to recognise and appreciate an individual’s feeling, once you are able to relate to an individual’s emotion you get to know them better. This can only be achieved through a professional being able to identify and take acknowledgement of both themselves and another person’s feeling. During verbal communication this is accomplished through a healthcare professional clarifying and asking curious and leading questions such as ‘I can see you are really uncomfortable, would you like to talk about it? ‘This can also extend to nonverbal communication, for example a gentle touch or hug can give the service user confidence that you understand their emotional state and you are offering yourself as a means of help and support. Professionals can ensure this concept is used effectively through these key steps: recognising presence of strong feeling in clinical setting; pausing to imagine how the patient might be feeling; stating our perception of the patients feeling; legitimizing that feeling; respecting the patients effort to cope with the predicament; offering support and partnership, (Real Balance. 2010)
In regards to the case study, no empathy was shown towards Mr and Mrs Singh. It was shown clear to the team that the couple appeared confused and distressed to which non on the professionals attempted to question what they were feeling. They instead made arrangements amongst themselves about the welfare of the couple without consulting with the pair about their emotions towards the situation.
Good communication is a necessary skill to which all healthcare professional should possess. It forms the foundations from which strong bonds can be formed with their clients during a vulnerable stage of their life. If this process is not achieved it causes the trust and confidence to be lost leaving the client in a more vulnerable position. This is highlighted in the case study discussed. The couple were given a package of care to which they were not eligible to make an informed decision on; this may prove detrimental to the long term health and wellbeing of the couple. Due to the lack of
an interaction during the meeting the Singh’s were unable to expresses their wishes and or concerns about the situation they are in.