Effective Communication in Health and Social Care

Assignment Brief

a)           Using theory and knowledge provide an outline of the importance of communication in health and social care situations

b)          Give an overview of the potential barriers which can exist in health and social care

c)           Choose one barrier and consider the possible effects upon an individual, use of the examples attached or an example from your own experience

d)          Look at ways / communication techniques which can be used to overcome the barrier are identified

e)           Within this essay reference should be made to how effective communication skills are link with the principles of care

Suggestive Reading

  • Adams, R. (2007) Foundations of Health and Social Care. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Brotherton, G. and Parker, S. (2008, 2013) Your foundation in health and social care: a guide for foundation degree students. London: Sage Publication (Available online as an e-book via Library)
  • Moss, B. (2008, 2015) Communication Skills in Health and Social Care. London: Sage
  • Thompson, N. (2011) Effective Communications: A guide for the People Professions. Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Webb, R. and Tossel, D. (1999) Social Issues for Carers: towards positive practice London: Arnold

•            Sector Skills Council for Care – www.skillsforcare.org.uk

•            Sector Skills Council for Health www.skillsforhealth.org.uk

•            Skills you Need – http://www.skillsyouneed.com/interpersonal-skills.html

•            British Sign Language  – www.britishsignlanguage.com

•            Department of Health – www.dh.gov.uk/Home

•            Equality and Human Rights Commission – www.equalityhumanrights.com/

1: Identify key features of effective communication and barriers to communication

2: Consider appropriate theoretical concepts with regard to communication in Health and Social Care settings

3: Communicate ideas in writing

4: Demonstrate knowledge of Windows applications and basic computer function and internet searches

SAMPLE PAPER

The Importance of Effective Communication in Health and Social Care

Medical services are among the basic amenities that people require. Dealing with people with diverse medical conditions is quite a challenging task for healthcare professionals. Moreover, patients have different opinions regarding healthcare services. This may cause misunderstandings between healthcare workers and patients. In order to improve patient outcomes and deliver care that is centred on patients, health and social care workers need to understand the value and significance of effective communication in their area of practice. Using the concept of patient-centred care as the guiding theory, this essay analyses the importance of communication in health and social care, as well as the application of communication skills in addressing common barriers in healthcare.

Importance of communication in health and social care situations

Effective communication skills are an essential part of people’s daily interactions. Whether in the family, at school or in the workplace, an ability to communicate effectively is invaluable. In the healthcare sector, communication is of utmost importance. Brotherton and Parker (2008, p.179) assert that health care workers must possess excellent communication skills given that they work “with people who, at the particular time at which [the healthcare worker is] involved with them, will be feeling ‘vulnerable’”. What this means is that healthcare professionals must be skilled at listening to their patients and assuring them that they are doing their best to ensure that their pain and illness goes away. This is best explained using the theory or concept of person-centred care, which postulates that clients or rather patients are the focal point. As such, healthcare workers are expected to show respect, genuineness and empathy when attending to patients. As Brotherton and Parker (2008, p.181) put it, “empathy, genuineness, and respect [should be] the core conditions of the [relationship between clinicians and patients]”. Exercising these values involves, to a greater extent, interpersonal communication.

From the perspective of person-centred care, communication is very important in health and social care situations because it helps care workers to uphold professional ethics. Generally, users of health and social care services ought to be treated with respect and valued regardless of their racial background, culture, age, gender, and religious beliefs (Adams, 2007). Health and social care workers should, therefore, learn to communicate in a way that makes clients feel valued and respected. Similarly, proper communication improves patient or client satisfaction in that it makes them feel that their needs were attended to and the care professional was genuinely interested in improving the patient outcomes.

Besides providing emotional satisfaction to clients with different vulnerabilities and anxieties, proper communication in health and social care situations enhances the effectiveness of healthcare. According to Moonie (2000), communication skills are an important tool for care workers to respond to vulnerable people’s needs. With good skills of communication, care workers can work effectively with relatives and other professionals to provide quality, well-coordinated care.

Potential barriers which can exist in health and social care

            Not all people have easy access to health and social care. Cultural obstacles stand in the way of universal accessibility of such services. As mentioned earlier, the concept of person-centred care suggests that all people should be treated respectfully irrespective of cultural differences. This is to say that there are times when patients or clients do not receive necessary health or social care services because they cannot speak a certain language, for example, or they are of a certain sexual or religious orientation. In addition, individuals live in a world where there is continuous exposure to cultural factors such as beliefs, values, and institutionalized behavioural patterns (Thompson, 2011). If there are significant disparities in such values between the care worker and patients or clients, challenges are likely to be encountered in the delivery of care.

Another potential barrier in health and social care would be resource limitations. It is common for people to find themselves in situations where they cannot get medical or social care services because of lack of money. Likewise, shortage of health or social care staff can at times hinder people from obtaining the services they want (Fisher, 2003). There are also situations where demand for certain health or social care services is extremely high. When this happens, people are forced to wait. Fisher (2003) notes that health care workers are often compelled to make difficult decisions regarding who gets treatment. For example, when presented with a child who is critically ill and who needs to be put on life support. At the same time, there may be an elderly woman struggling with a life-threatening respiratory illness that also requires her to be placed on oxygen support. Assuming that there is only one oxygen-support machine in the healthcare facility, the healthcare workers will be in a dilemma as to who among the two they should give priority.

Effect of cultural barriers on individuals

            In the contemporary workplace, the issue of culture is becoming more relevant than before. Globalization has given people the impetus to seek jobs in different parts of the world. This means that cultural diversity within the workplace is a key feature of today’s organizations. Unless workers are empowered and motivated to embrace this diversity, cultural differences can turn into impediments that make it difficult for the organization to deliver quality service to customers and meet its objectives.

            In health and social care, cultural barriers may include things such as language differences that impede proper communication between care workers and clients; unavailability of professions belonging to the same sexual orientation as patients; and treatments that are considered a taboo in the client’s culture (Fisher, 2003). From my own experience, I consider the latter to be a pertinent issue in health and social care.

I have witnessed incidents where parents refuse to take their children for immunization or treatment simply because they claim to believe in a supernatural power that is capable of healing and protecting their children from disease. In the same community, expectant women do not seek antenatal services because of their cultural/religious beliefs. As can be expected, such beliefs have had dire consequences on the community. Many cases of children dying at home due to sickness have occurred in this community; a significant number of women also lose their lives during childbirth as a result of complications that would have been averted if antenatal care had been sought.

Use of communication techniques to overcome cultural barriers

            Ethics demands that people’s cultures and religious beliefs be respected (Adams, 2007). However, healthcare professionals are also required to demonstrate professionalism when handling patients who have retrogressive cultural beliefs. Specifically, the healthcare worker should assess the dangers that may arise if the patient’s will is allowed to prevail. In reference to the cultural barrier described above where parents refuse to take their critically ill children to hospital, healthcare workers must make decisions that aim at saving lives. This is where healthcare professionals are expected to demonstrate cultural competence and good interpersonal skills to help patients to understand why it may be impossible for the care worker to respect the patients’ cultural values or beliefs.

            When dealing with people whose ideologies and beliefs differ significantly from ours, it is very important that people practice the art of listening actively. The technique of active listening has been identified to be very helpful in the healthcare sector. This is because healthcare workers often find themselves in situations where they must pass not-so-good news to patients or their families. Healthcare professionals are thus expected to demonstrate sensitivity in the way they convey unpleasant news. Ability to talk and listen to patients together with their families, therefore, becomes an important skill among such workers (“Interpersonal skills”, 2020). For patients with harmful, retrogressive values and beliefs, active listening will help the health or social care worker to persuade the client that much as his/her values are respected, he/she is putting his/her life together with that of his/her child in danger. In the end, the health or social care worker will convince the client to obtain essential care services.

Connection between effective communication skills and principles of care

From the above discussion, it is evident that there is a very strong link between effective communication skills and principles of healthcare. The ability of care providers to communicate effectively with clients has been cited as one of the factors that enable or rather motivate clients to adhere to treatment, seek care services as and when necessary, and develop trust in care providers (Brotherton & Parker, 2008). The fact that patients tend to feel vulnerable, coupled with the anxiety, fear and depression that usually accompany disease, explain why it is crucial for care providers to demonstrate effective communication skills. Moss () outlines the key skills or abilities that healthcare professionals must exhibit: active listening, assertiveness, acceptance, empathy, emotional intelligence, and ability to give feedback. These skills are some of the enablers of effectiveness in the delivery of quality healthcare services.

Conclusion

            Like most other fields, the healthcare profession is governed by ethical guidelines whose central principle is respect for patients. Healthcare workers are required to demonstrate appreciation and respect for their patients’ opinions and beliefs. However, this may create a dilemma especially where patients’ beliefs or opinions pose a threat to the patient’s life. Because of this, effective communication skills are crucial- empathy, active listening, assertiveness, and emotional intelligence help health and social workers to handle clients whose vulnerabilities may hamper effective care. Clearly, quality health and social care is dependent, in part, upon effectiveness communication skills among workers.

References

Adams, R. (2007). Foundations of Health and Social Care. Palgrave Macmillan

Andrews, L. W. (2010). Encyclopedia of depression. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood Press.

Brotherton, G. and Parker, S. (2008). Your foundation in health and social care: a guide for foundation degree students. Sage Publications.

Fisher, A. (2003). Folens GCSE health and social care. Folens Limited.

Interpersonal skills. (2020). www.skillsyouneed.com/interpersonal-skills.html

Moonie, N. (2000). Health and social care. Heinemann Educational.

Moss, B. (2017). Communication Skills in Health and Social Care. Sage.

Thompson, N. (2011) Effective Communications: A guide for the People Professions. Palgrave.

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