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Effective Communication Skills with Staff and Patients


Kenneth Levine

K Levine1*, (1) University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN

TU-B-Salon EF-1 Tuesday 10:00:00 AM - 12:00:00 PM Room: Salon EF

Efficient communication between and among the members of a health care team is vital to the care of the patient, and effective communication between members of the health care team and the patient is essential for quality diagnosis, in- and post-hospital care. A breakdown in the communication process at any point may result in an increase in errors or omissions related to patient care and a decrease in patient satisfaction. This presentation will examine three specific communication issues facing health care professionals.

All members of a health care team need to understand that they are communicating to two separate and distinct audiences: (1) members of the health care team; and (2) patients. The members of the health care team are well-trained professionals with a jargon and urgency of their own. Effective communication within this group is based on disseminating information efficiently. Patients often do not understand the jargon used by the medical staff, and they often have many questions. When communicating with non-medical audiences, the medical staff's primary goal must be to maximize understanding, thus effectiveness over efficiency. This presentation will discuss this tension between effective communication and efficient communication within different medical contexts.

A crucial context within the teaching hospital setting is the ''hand-off'' meeting. The hand-off meeting is a daily event between and among interns, residents and attending physicians that occurs at the end and beginning of a working shift. At this time, information is transferred from one set of medical professionals to another. This presentation will report the findings of an exploratory study into the hand-off process. The research included the use of naturalistic observations at the shift-change meetings and of ''work rounds'' in a Critical Care Intensive Care unit and follow-up interviews with interns, residents and attending physicians. The findings suggest that there is a difference between the messages that are sent and the information that the medical professionals would like to receive.

Any conflict within a medical team or unit is likely to impact patient satisfaction. This presentation will discuss some early findings of an on-going study examining conflict within a medical unit to determine whether internal conflict has an impact on the patients and their perceptions of their care.

Lastly, there are important issues facing the medical profession due to the generation gap between older and younger members of a health care team. While not unique to the health care field, intergenerational communication issues may impact patient care and doctor-patient communication, as the different age groups have very different expectations regarding effective and efficient communication. Additionally, the impact of the new 80-hour work week on the training of residents and interns is causing an us-versus-them mentality among members of the health care team. This presentation will discuss these intergenerational issues by concentrating on the communication-related issues resulting from the new limits on medical training.

The presentation will conclude with suggestions for training techniques and for future research into effective and efficient communication among medical personnel and between medical staff and patients.

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