Are You Clearly Communicating?

Good communication is greatly emphasized on both professional and personal levels.  Many times, we believe we have clearly communicated our thoughts and desires but later learn that they were misperceived by the recipient(s).  Additionally, in our line of work relating to the medical field, we believe that someone has updated the family regarding a patient’s condition but later discover that this has not happened for one reason or another.  George Bernard Shaw, a well-known writer, best summarizes this by stating, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

With respect to this dilemma, I received the following fictional but humorous story via email that clearly describes this scenario:

A sweet grandmother telephoned St. Joseph ‘s Hospital. She timidly asked, “Is it possible to speak to someone who can tell me how a patient is doing?” 

The operator said, “I’ll be glad to help, dear. What’s the name and room number of the patient?” 

The grandmother in her weak, tremulous voice said, “Norma Findlay, Room 302.” 

The operator replied, “Let me put you on hold while I check with the nurse’s station for that room.” 

After a few minutes, the operator returned to the phone and said, “I have good news. Her nurse just told me that Norma is doing well. Her blood pressure is fine; her blood work just came back normal and her physician, Dr. Cohen, has scheduled her to be discharged tomorrow.” 

The grandmother said, “Thank you. That’s wonderful. I was so worried. God bless you for the good news.” 

The operator replied, “You’re more than welcome. Is Norma your daughter?” 

The grandmother said, “No, I’m Norma Findlay in Room 302.  No one tells me anything.”

 Even though this situation would probably not happen in our facility, it caused me to reflect on the interactions we, as the medical team, have with our patients and their loved ones.  So, do we provide clear communication to others and especially to those in our care?  What can each of us do to enhance our skills in this area?  While every patient and/or family is unique and usually requires various listening/questioning techniques to communicate a message, it is important to always consider two things: 1) Good communication begins with each and every one of us as care providers, and 2) As members of an interdisciplinary team, we all are striving for one common goal—to provide the best care and support to each of our patients and their loved ones.

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