DiversityNursing Blog

Communication in Healthcare Saves Lives

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Feb 03, 2016 @ 11:27 AM

communication

In an environment where moments can mean life or death, it is undeniable that communication greatly matters. If the same message can be conveyed without losing meaning in a shorter or more efficient way, then it's a duty of the messenger, especially in a professional medical setting to optimize their communication skills. Speaking is literally only half of the equation, with great listening skills and information retention skills being able to effectively make repeated statements unnecessary. There are some ways to think critically about a healthcare organization to determine where it stands as a team regarding their communication abilities. Taking this closer look at the state of communication at a given facility is the crucial first step towards improving the communication therein. Increased efficiency in communication will result in saved time and increased focus that can be dedicated to the needs of patients, where it ultimately should.

Determining the state of the team's communication skills:

  • Turn culture clash into culture strength: If there was no top-down strategy around cultural diversity as a marker of strength, then little petty fights about minor topics could escalate into all-out cultural clashes among a workforce. By the promotion an ideal of strength through unity, the team as a whole has the chance to get in front of any potential culture clash issue rather than chasing the problem, always trying to put out fires.
  • Hold group meetings to discuss the overall state of communication at the facility: Management can play a massive role in putting the correct, positive spin on the topic of diversity in the workplace. The larger part of any staff will often be found to be on the same page about the acceptance, curiosity and positive interest in new cultures being integrated into the workplace at all times. By it being an official part of a corporate brand message and identity, the company embraces the diversity perspective even further.

Starting to help create a positive communication culture:

  • Create regular workshops to go over basic principles in communications: Different individuals from diverse backgrounds will have unique perspective to share on the same topics, even if they technically speak the same language. Then, of course, there are the actual boundaries that exist between nations and languages that are completely distinct. If the staff of a healthcare facility can say "Hello" in ten distinct languages, that group brings themselves one step closer to the perfect awareness and diversity in their facility. 
  • Hold regular cultural show and tell days within the staff: Each staff member, once they share their true selves, are going to have their own special cultural tale to share. If there is an encouraging environment in this way, it becomes natural and easy to leverage this diversity to enrich the staff with increased knowledge and awareness. Patients come from all over the world and there's never any way to predict who will become a patient next. With these principles in mind, a staff trained in cultural sensitivity and awareness will be better prepared to interact with new international cultures.
  • Leverage modern and inexpensive tools: Any healthcare facility staff member is going to be all too familiar with the app store on their smartphone, but sadly quite few have downloaded any translation or language-learning app onto their phone. When these powerful and groundbreaking tools are now available and often for no outright cost, it's usually just a matter of pointing this out and creating a culture of support towards adopting these excellent tools to enable a team to begin using them.

Once the realization hits that communication is mostly a function of awareness, effort, empathy and genuine bonding experiences with groups, it becomes much easier to cultivate this environment of abundant and fruitful communication. If the entire healthcare facility can start to treat the state of communication at their facility as a togetherness exercise and a mission dedicated to a better experience for the patients, then the real results can start to be noticed.

Individual differences can make a group stronger and more powerful or they can also tear groups apart. The key to ensuring a positive outcome is to apply conscious effort around fostering excellent communication in any arena or avenue possible.

Related links:

4 nurse communication startups to improve patient outcomes

Three Tips for Better Nurse–Physician Communication In The Digital Age

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