Do You Speak “Patient?”
Sep. 16, 2015
A variety of scenarios exist in which a health care provider needs to gather information from a patient whoâs difficult to understand. As a health care worker, it's your job to provide the best level of care possible, but when you can't understand what the problem is, it can be hard to achieve this. Instead of becoming frustrated, the most skilled professionals reach deeper, utilize effective communication strategies, and keep everyone calm in the process. If that sounds impossible, it doesn't have to be. At Concorde, we work with our students from the very first day to develop alternative ways to describe things so that âspeaking patientâ becomes second nature to our graduates -- and a true comfort to those whom they care for.
DIFFICULTIES IN COMMUNICATION ARE COMMONThe situations are endless. A patient arrives in the emergency room and doesn't speak English. The patient says something is wrong, but cannot communicate what it is. Fear, anxiety and even panic can get in the way of a clear understanding of what's happening. In still other cases, patients have no idea what's wrong, just that something is. It's up to you, the health care professional, to find the fastest, most effective way of getting the necessary information. Consider some of the following strategies to help you facilitate the conversation:
- Create a relationship with the patient by demonstrating your desire to help. This can help calm a worried patient and encourage them to focus on what you are saying rather than what is happening. Making eye contact is important.
- Don't let the job or the task at hand worry you. Communication needs to be slow and calm. To "speak patient," focus on being calm and relaxed while speaking to the patient.
- Use simple sentences and non-medical terms to determine what's wrong. It may not be possible to get all of the details, but it is possible to get a better understanding even when the patient speaks another language or is unresponsive. Don't take words at face value. Get details through creative means. This could mean discussing specific areas that hurt, describing the pain yourself so they can agree or disagree, or asking about related areas of the body.
- Find your source of compassion. One thing that helps qualified health care professionals really stand out is their ability to show compassion to anyone, especially when difficulties in communication occur. For example, a touch on the arm, an understanding and caring voice, and extra attention can all make a big difference.