Analyse communication methods and assess their effectiveness in a care settings. Health and social care professionals have to develop effective communication skills in order to work with the diverse range of people who use and work within care services. The two contexts, or types of circumstances, in which communication and interaction occur are one-to-one and group contexts.
One-to-one communication occurs when one person speaks with or writes to another individual. Examples of one-to-one communication in health care could be a patient talking to his/her doctor, a doctor talking to a patient’s family and a doctor breaking sensitive news to a patient. Effective communication and interaction play an important role in the work of all health and social care professionals.
For example, care professionals need to be able to use a range of communication and interaction skills in order to: Work inclusively with people of different ages and diverse backgrounds, respond appropriately to the variety of care-related problems and individual needs of people who use care services, obtain clear, accurate information about a person’s problems, symptoms or concerns. Group communication follows slightly different ‘rules’ to communication in one-to-one situations. There is often more going on in a group, with a number of different people trying to speak, get their point across and their voice heard.
These work better when the group is small as the leader can interact better than working with large groups. As a communication context, groups can have a number of benefits for participants: a group can be an effective way of sharing responsibilities and groups can improve decision-making and problem-solving because they draw on the knowledge and skills of a number of people However, groups can also limit the effectiveness of communication if: people find it hard to speak and contribute effectively or to challenge aspects of the group’s thinking or practices.
This can lead to poorly thought-out, unquestioned decisions being made. Care professionals need to understand how communication and interpersonal interaction occur in both formal and informal contexts. Knowing when to communicate formally and when to use informal communication improves the effectiveness of a care professional’s communication and interactions. Formal communication is the interaction between two or more people, which does adhere to the rules of formal communication. Formal communication requires appropriate verbal and non-verbal skills.
Other examples of formal communication are: formal letter or email. Informal communication is more relaxed, more personal and ‘looser’ than formal communication. People use informal language when they speak with or write to their family, friends or close relatives. Care professionals have to learn to assess each person’s communication needs and preferences and to understand the different contexts in which formal and informal communication is appropriate. Developing this understanding and flexibility enables a care professional to be respectful, sensitive and effective whenever they are communicating with others.
Care professionals communicate and interact with colleagues, other professionals and the people who use care services by using a variety of word-based (verbal) and non-word-based (non-verbal) methods of communication. Verbal and non-verbal communication can be explored separately but occur simultaneously. Effective verbal communication occurs when one person speaks (writes) and at least one other listens to (reads) and understands the message. Talking with service users, their relatives and with colleagues is a frequent, everyday occurrence for care professionals.
For example, verbal communication skills are needed to: respond to questions asked by people who use services, their families and friends; discuss the worries, concerns and distress of people who use care services; ask questions when carrying out needs assessments or reviewing progress. Services user’s records, organisational policies and procedures, official letters and memos, emails and text messages between care practitioners are all examples of verbal, or word-based, communication in written form.
People who have hearing (or dual hearing and sight) impairments sometimes communicate through the use of specialist forms of nonverbal signing. Sign languages are often taught and used in settings where service users have limited ability to use verbal language due to learning disabilities. In situations where people speak different languages or prefer to use different communication systems – such as British Sign Language or Makaton – effective communication may only be possible if assistance is provided by a third party.
Care organisations and agencies may use one or more of the following human aids to ensure that communication are effective in these circumstances. As a professional, it is your responsibility to make sure that your communication skills meet the needs of the people you support. We don’t have to talk to other people to communicate or interact with them. We also communicate non-verbally through body language, the way we dress and sometimes through the activities we take part in.
As we will see, body language, art, drama and music, as well as specialist techniques such as signing, are all non-verbal methods of communication that are used within care settings. The human face is very expressive and is an important source of nonverbal communication. Care practitioners can use their understanding of postural messages to read a person’s mood and feelings. This can give useful information during assessment interviews and in one-to-one counselling sessions. Nonverbal communication, just like language, varies across cultures. These differences can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.
Nonverbal communication is communication through means other than language, facial expressions, personal space, and eye contact, use of time, conversational silence and cultural space. Care professionals communicate effectively when they are able to ‘connect’ directly with other individuals. To be able to do this well, a care professional must adapt to the communication and language needs and preferences of others. This includes people who are unable to use spoken language and people who have sensory impairments that limit their communication and interaction abilities.
Care professionals may also encourage some people to make use of technological aids, such as electronic communicators, hearing aids and videophones, to overcome specific communication problems. These kinds of technological aids are specifically designed to help individuals who have difficulty sending or receiving the messages that form their communication with others. Getting your message across, and correctly interpreting the messages communicated to you, are vital to effective communication.