Communication is an integral element of daily functioning for individuals from all domains. The importance of effective communication is more important in the health and social care sector. Professionals working as a health and social care workers are to demonstrate good communication skills for developing relationships and sharing accurate information with service users. Through proper communication, individuals can express their requirements and concerns. It is pivotal for professionals to understand the features of effective communication, the methods by which such communication can be exhibited, and the multifaceted benefits of the same (Sanders, Chang and Ramis 2015). The present essay would be highlighting key characteristics of effective communication in health and social care domain. Suitable theoretical concepts that relate to communication in a health and a social care setting would be discussed. Further, a reflection on professional and personal experiences would be put forward to highlight the impact of effective communication in relation to principles of care practices.
Communication refers to the process of exchanging and imparting information through verbal and nonverbal means. In other words, it is the process of conveying intended meanings from a particular entity to another with the help of mutually understood semiotic rules and signs. Human communication has an underlying uniqueness for the use of nonrepresentational and intangible language (Aveyard and Sharp 2013). The importance of communication in health and social care has been elaborated by Moss (2017). Communication is a crucial aspect in care setting due to a number of reasons and uses. With the different forms of communication, a care setting is enabled to send and promote messages effectively. The first and most praiseworthy aspect is that proper communication enables service users, staffs, visitors and other care professionals to establish strong relationship that ultimately leads to better patient outcomes. As a method of promoting diversity, distinct relationships are to be established with distinct forms of communication. Respect is a vital segment of communication in health and social care. Proper communication allows care workers to express understanding, support and trust. The patients can be shown empathy, and they can have a feeling that they are being respected and affection is being given. Further, the individualistic needs of the patients can be met adequately through communication.
The outcomes of poor communication within care settings have repeatedly been pointed out by the NHS in the past one decade. As per their reports, inadequate communication has led to patient mortality which ould have been otherwise avoided. This lack of communication had been shocking as the most adverse impact due to poor communication had been inappropriate medication administration, leading to deaths. A number of problems have been identified regarding the manner in which information is exchanged with in health and social care system in England. The absence of any suitable guideline to replicate the communications methods that health and social care teams make use of has been the primary cause for such outcomes. For avoiding cases of public emergencies, communication between organisations and within organisations in primitive (Glasby 2017).
Naidoo and Wills (2016) outlined some of the key features of effective communication. Effective communication is always a two-way process that is influenced to a great extent by the environment in which the communication is taking place. Moreover, effective communication is about understanding the needs of the environment and the relationships involved. It is about one entity engaging in an interaction with another entity in a manner so that the other entity listens, understands and communicates back in a suitable manner. It is true that not everyone can communicate in an effective manner and thus it is important that one attempts to engage in a meaningful conversation with others to express their opinions and beliefs. Effective communication is the one that has an optimal expression of ideas and thoughts and maximal transfer of information between two entities. Communication in which one person considers the language barriers, cultural background and level of confidence of the other person, can be denoted as effective. If positive influence is the outcome of the communication, then such communication is effective. People are to engage in an effective communication when they are to fulfil a goal, professional or personal, by imparting information and receiving information from others (Reeves et al. 2011).
Communication is all about establishing a contact with others and enabling a suitable understanding between individuals (Moorhead et al. 2013). As explained by the authors, communication involves two or more people exchanging information or messages in a continuous manner, that gives rise to the communication cycle. The first stage is when a person generates an idea hat is then coded as a message with the help of verbal words and nonverbal means. The third stage is to send the message to another person. The successive stage is the other person receiving the message. Thereafter, the second person decodes the message. Lastly, the message has to be understood. Once the first message is understood, the cycle is to repeat itself if any response is generated. Repetitions of the communication cycle are an indispensable element of the established relationships.
Health and social care workers are found to use different forms of communication during their practice, each having its own benefits and challenges. Communication can be classified into verbal or non-verbal, both of which are used for giving and receiving information about the care to be provided, for providing emotional support to the patients and for carrying out assessments of the care needs of the individual. Verbal communication takes place when an individual speaks to another person who is listening. Care workers are to display diverse verbal communication skills for responding to patient questions, contributing to meetings, assessing patient needs, passing off patient information to other care professionals and dealing with complaints. The communication cycle exhibits that effective verbal communication is a two-way process. Non-verbal communication, on the other hand, refers to the process of expressing ideas and viewpoints without talking. Such form of communication involves posture, signs and symbols, eye contact, hand and head movements, gestures and use of touch (Thornton et al. 2011).
Thompso et al. (2011) gave a summative explanation of the contexts of communication. As stated by the authors, communication might be formal or informal. Formal communication is used when an individual is communicating in a professional context and is precise. Such communication is the official form of communication, and is correct an clear, thereby reducing misunderstandings. In contrast, informal communication deals with a casual approach taken with varied expressions. It is a friendlier and warmer mode of communication, not adhering to any prescribed rules. Further, communication within a care setting can be either one-to-one communication or group communciation. Communication can also be one-to-one communication or group communication. The former communication form is when one person interacts with only another person, for example, one care worker interacting with another care worker. In case of the later form of communication, several individuals engage in communication in a group, such as a team meeting, activity groups and report handover meeting.
As a care worker, I have had different experiences that made the importance of effective communication in health and social care more prominent. One instance relates to the care delivery for Mr G who was suffering from dementia and was admitted to the care unit with diverse needs. He had fractured his right hand and also had issues with mobility due to a long sustained injury in the left leg. He was also found to be suffering depression and engage in minimal conversations. I realised the need of communicating effectively with the patient to understand all his needs and act accordingly. I spent a considerable amount of time engaging in an informal communication with the patient with the aim of establishing a strong bond and earning the trust of the patient. Recognising the physical and emotional needs of the patient I outlined an effective care plan for the patient. I ensured that my tone of voice was appropriate and sympathetic. In addition, my speech was coherent. Mr G thanked me for the support provided as he was having a better quality of life, and I gained satisfaction from my professional practice.
Barriers to communication within a care setting are diverse, mainly sensory deprivation, cultural differences, environmental issues, language differences, dialect and emotional challenges. These factors prevent and obstruct the care worker’s ability to send, receive and understand the messages. These barriers are to be overcome by all care workers to deliver optimal quality care services. The strategies that can be implemented are an adaptation to the environment, understanding language preferences and needs, suitable pace, and use of advanced devices (Morgan et al. 2017).
Drawing insights from the above discussion it can be concluded that the benefits of effective communication in health and social care setting are multidimensional and imperative. Proper communication skills are to be exhibited by professionals so that relationships can be built with service users, families and other professionals. While effective communication enables a care professional to help a vulnerable patient requiring a safe environment, such form of communication also allows the workers to utilise tools for better understanding of the patient and supporting them adequately. Communication style can be of different types, and depending on the clinical context one needs to adapt to the suitable style. Barriers and challenges to effective communication are crucial. However, these are to be avoided through different techniques that are apt for care context. Lastly, care professionals need to reflect on their own experiences and consider enhancing their communication styles based on the weaknesses identified. For this purpose, maximal resource utilisation would be essential.
Aveyard, H. and Sharp, P., 2013. A beginner's guide to evidence-based practice in health and social care. McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Glasby, J., 2017. Understanding health and social care. Policy Press.
Moorhead, S.A., Hazlett, D.E., Harrison, L., Carroll, J.K., Irwin, A. and Hoving, C., 2013. A new dimension of health care: systematic review of the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(4).
Morgan, H.M., Entwistle, V.A., Cribb, A., Christmas, S., Owens, J., Skea, Z.C. and Watt, I.S., 2017. We need to talk about purpose: a critical interpretive synthesis of health and social care professionals’ approaches to self?management support for people with long?term conditions. Health Expectations, 20(2), pp.243-259.
Moss, B., 2017. Communication skills in health and social care. Sage.
Naidoo, J. and Wills, J., 2016. Foundations for Health Promotion-E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.
Reeves, S., Lewin, S., Espin, S. and Zwarenstein, M., 2011. Interprofessional teamwork for health and social care (Vol. 8). John Wiley & Sons.
Sanders, L., Chang, A. and Ramis, M.A., 2015. The effectiveness of communication interventions in providing older people with information on access to in?home health and social care services: a systematic review protocol. JBI database of systematic reviews and implementation reports, 13(5), pp.105-117.
Thompson, T.L., Parrott, R. and Nussbaum, J.F. eds., 2011. The Routledge handbook of health communication. Routledge.
Thornton, R.L.J., Powe, N.R., Roter, D. and Cooper, L.A., 2011. Patient–physician social concordance, medical visit communication and patients’ perceptions of health care quality. Patient education and counseling, 85(3), pp.e201-e208.