Great communication plays a very important role in any industry - but in health and social care, it is essential!
From developing professional relationships with care recipients (and their loved ones), regulatory bodies, other health professionals and colleagues - to sharing important information that could literally save a life!
In this article, we’ll explain the reasons why perfecting the art of communication is essential; and why care professionals should always be prepared to brush up on their communication skills...
What is the role of communication in Health and Social Care?
Communication in health and social care ranges from dealing with in-office matters, to talking to care recipients, their loved ones and talking to other people involved in healthcare, such as doctors, nurses, OTs, other therapists and even regulatory bodies like the CQC. This means that any care professional should be able to talk and listen to people in multiple situations, and adapt their communication style accordingly.
Often the people care professionals are speaking with are experiencing difficulties, whether mental or physical. So as well as being able to communicate to help others, there’s more emphasis on how to communicate empathetically in health and social care - such as using compassion, empathy, sympathy, patience and kindness. Developing those emotional skills are a key part of delivering on person-centred care.
How does communication help in health and social care?
Privacy and Confidentiality
In health and social care, there’s the need to uphold the privacy of care recipients, to retain their dignity and ensure that they remain as independent as possible. As well as care recipients, their families will also expect privacy and confidentiality - that means respecting personal data, only sharing what is necessary (and with the right people) and being mindful of private conversations and who might overhear them.
Good communication also builds healthy relationships with others, which as a care professional is important as getting to know the care recipient is central to understanding what they need and helps to deliver the right type of care. It comes as no surprise to hear that when you develop a good relationship with your care recipients (and their families too) they feel at ease, there’s genuine trust and that makes a significant difference to how they respond to the care given. There will be times when you might need to share difficult information to a family of someone in your care. This should always be done in an understanding, sensitive manner, with empathy and kindness.
Good communication extends out to listening skills too. For example, knowing that a certain medication might be problematic for a care recipient because they have an allergy to one of the ingredients. Or as simple as knowing what television programmes they enjoy the most, or how they like their eggs prepared! Listening is a key communication skill and taking in what’s being expressed is essential in health and social care because misunderstandings can often be avoided by just listening well.
Continuity of Care
Communication in health and social care extends to work colleagues too, especially for reporting reasons. There will often be times when you need to share information about care recipients for continuity of care. You and your team will also share your views and make decisions together which is another reason why good communication is key to your role as a care professional. Care plans are never set in stone, and they continue to change and evolve, so any changes must be effectively communicated and documented so that all those involved are always kept in the loop.
How to improve communication in Health and Social Care?
'Communication' takes many forms. For example:
- Speaking aloud
- Written communication (emails, keeping up records, letter writing, reports etc.)
- Non-verbal, such as using hands or facial expressions
- Sign language, Makaton or Braille
We can't change things beyond our control - if you receive poorly worded or difficult to understand communications from outside of your organisation, then it can make you and the team feel frustrated. However it is in your power to interpret what these mean, then respond back clearly and effectively!
When communications come directly from you or your team then it's even easier to improve them. But first you need to establish areas where you could do with that improvement. The best way to do this?
Ask for feedback!
Include the link to a quick communication focused survey either on your website, in emails or as a link shared directly to relevant parties. You could also share it internally! This could include questions like...
- Did you fully understand the content of this message?
- Do you have any additional questions after reading this message?
- Did you notice any grammar or spelling errors?
- Does the tone of the message feel appropriate to you?
There are lots of great tools you can use to create this survey, including SurveyMonkey, Typeform and Google forms. Paying attention to the responses on this survey will help you to establish where you or your teams communication could be lacking.
Once you've found some key areas of improvement, here are some simple quick tips to improve communication:
- Use tools like Grammarly to improve your written communication
- Ask for verbal feedback during a conversation - "Are you able to please re-explain back to me what I've just said?"
- Check all messages before hitting send
- Be aware of how body language can support good communication
- Take notes so it's easier to remember key information
- Consider the best way of communicating information - an email works well for setting dates, but not for describing a complex situation
- Listen first - and pause before responding
As it plays a fundamental role in health and social care, online training courses have also been developed that zero in on how to communicate effectively, and there are a wide range of options out there depending on what you or your care team needs. Here are a small selection we've found;
- One Education - Communication skills in Health and Social Care - Best for understanding the basics of Health and Social care communication
- Mandatory Training - Communication in Health and Social Care - Best for refreshing knowledge
- Coursera – English Communication Skills Certification – Best for strengthening English speaking and writing skills
- Coursera – Teamwork Skills: Communicating Effectively in Groups – Best for teams
- LinkedIn Learning – Effective Listening – Best for improving listening skills
Overcoming barriers to communication in health and social care
There’s no doubt that communicating effectively with care recipients, their families, work colleagues and professionals in health and social care is imperative! It’s possibly the most crucial factor in providing quality care. As part of any care provider’s business, regular training can help to enhance and improve communication skills as well as remind your team just how important talking, listening, understanding (and documenting) are to those in your care.
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