The given definition of communication is this: the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.
(Source: Oxford Dictionary of English)
Just words and body language right? It is something that is natural to us all, we communicate everyday – for some of us it is the first thing we do each morning as we turn to those we care most about and bid them a good morning, communicating unconditional love (nauseating – I know). As health care professionals communication is a crucial part of the job and you communicate with potentially hundreds of people a day; colleagues, patients, parents. Back and forth, often to recite the same medical terminology and performing the same routine day in and day out. Thus, you are at high risk and often find yourselves becoming robots.
When was the last time you stopped to think: What about the person, the human being that you’re tending to – How does your robotic style affect them?
I have recently been in hospital, recovering from surgery, unfortunately because of my reaction to anaesthetic my two day trip lasted just over a week. I saw many people but one person, this young doctor, stood out the most. For names sake we shall call him Dr Strudel.
He came over to my bed, he greeted me like this:
‘Hello, you must be James? ‘
In a fantasy world maybe! Sadly, this is what happened:
‘Okay….Bed 5, let’s have a look…..hmmm, Uh-ha, right…. lean forward, forward – breath in/out. Okay, can we get some Fs,Ps & Bs and 25ml of J – Have a good day! ‘
What do you mean ‘Have a good day!?’ You’ve just come over here:
- Called me Bed 5
- I don’t know who you are or what you do – do you even work here?
- You then made some strange, and frankly, worrying noises
- Then spoke to the nurse in a language that I don’t even know
- I have no idea what’s going on or what to expect.
- Think I’ll have a panic attack now…and make things 10 times worse!
STOP! Let us think Me first!
The Me first model isn’t a new bit of information; it’s not some new policy, or some mandatory and intensive training that you don’t really wish to attend. Me first isn’t about teaching you how to communicate, you already know how. Instead it is simply a tool to remind you of the great communication skills you have and helps you use them in the best possible way. If Dr Strudel had been using the Me first Communication Model – things would have been very different.
- He would have introduced himself
‘Hello, I’m doctor Strudel, you must be James – is that right, is it okay to call you James?’
- Perhaps asked me how I think things are/how I’m feeling
- Then he would have told me what is happening
‘Okay, so I am just going to look at your notes to see where things are and what is happening, then I would like to listen to your chest, to see how you are recovering from your anaesthetic – is that okay?’
- Then he would have told me what’s happening next
‘Okay, James, we are just going to run a few blood tests to make sure that your infection has gone. We need to give you some more fluids through the cannula in your hand because you haven’t been able to drink enough. Okay, I’ll let the nurse know what I’ve just told you so that she can arrange this for you.
- Before he’d left, he would have asked if I had any questions or concerns.
You see immediately how different that conversation was?
Communication: it is more than just speaking and more than a bit of eye contact.
- What – what is the message that I’m trying to convey/ the action that needs to happen
- How – how am I doing this, is the language appropriate, are the options I have explained available
- And remember, they are people – not just numbers.
Communication: Get it right! It can have a positive impact on the experience that someone has whilst in healthcare, possibly improving health outcomes BUT if we get it wrong…well Pandora’s Box!