CMSA Today - Issue 2, 2013 - (Page 16)

CMSA Ethics Casebook Communicational Skills to Improve Health Literacy C oncerns about “health literacy,” which involves one’s ability to understand and use health care information, always deserve consideration – especially in our training curricula, wherein our future health professionals might provide less than optimal care if they fail to communicate with and inform their future patients adequately. Notice the slant, however, that I just chose. Very often, health literacy issues focus on the patient, e.g., on their low reading comprehension, poor information processing, related sensory impairments (especially visual and hearing), and so on. But, I’d like to devote this column to examining certain communication lapses among health professionals in general. BY JOHN BANJA, Ph.D. dominate the conversation. Also, this alerts the professional to the patient’s comprehension skills and language ability, as well as whether or not the patient has misunderstood any information. Finding out at the beginning of your relationship what the patient understands to be going on is a superb way to launch a therapeutic relationship. ©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/THINKSTOCK #2: WHEN PATIENTS TALK, TRY VERY HARD TO LISTEN AND NOT INTERRUPT THEM. Even though I suspect our current nursing, medical, and therapy students listen intently to their professors’ lectures on communication techniques to improve health literacy, it is easy to imagine students developing a less effective communication style that nevertheless “feels good” to them once they enter clinical practice. Indeed, productivity pressures alone might hamper good communication, as health professionals can feel enormously pressed for time and thus take only a few minutes to explain what might require a good deal of detail. So, after 16 CMSA TODAY Issue 2 • 2013 studying the communication literature for nearly two decades, I’d like to share some of the most important things I try to alert my students to, and which I hope they eventually incorporate into their clinical practices and communication styles. Some health professionals have anxious communication styles and hardly allow their patients to finish a sentence. This practice gives the patient the impression that the professional isn’t really listening or is dismissing the importance of what the patient is saying. It is much better to develop good listening skills – which require the professional not to talk – and to be consistently curious about what the patient is saying. The professional might frequently say things like, “So, let me make sure I’m understanding you. You’re saying that…..” Or, “So, tell me more about that….” Or, “And what do you think caused that?” These are all basic empathic responses that health professionals should master. The literature on empathy is voluminous, so that health professionals can just go online, type in “empathic responses” into an online search engine, and start learning. #3: SPEAK SLOWLY. #1: WHEN YOU FIRST MEET YOUR PATIENTS, ASK THEM WHAT THEY’VE BEEN TOLD SO FAR. This is a great practice for a few reasons. One is that the patient will feel permitted to talk to the professional rather than have the professional For many health professionals, slowing the speed of their speech might prove exceedingly difficult. They may be constantly pressed for time and, hence, they learn to talk fast because it gives them the impression they are being efficient. Also, after a few years http://www.ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/THINKSTOCK

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CMSA Today - Issue 2, 2013

President's Letter
Role of the Nurse Care Manager in a Patient-Centered Medical Home
Association news
View from Capitol Hill
Case Management and the Law
Ethics Casebook
Mentoring Matters
CMSA Corporate Partners
Index of Advertisers

CMSA Today - Issue 2, 2013