What are the two worst weaknesses in communication skills among health care professionals?

Communication skills are very important in any profession and they can be of critical importance in the field of healthcare.  Hence it is imperative that healthcare professionals possess requisite range of communication skills that satisfies the information needs of patients and their colleagues.   Healthcare industry is such that interacting with people (especially patients) is at the core of the practice.  Hence it is important that healthcare professionals exhibit good people skills.  The two biggest weaknesses in communication skills can be termed as 1. Lagging in people skills and 2. Lacking proficiency in technical communication.

Communication skills pertaining to dealing with people include such skills as presenting a benign body language to the patient, convincing skeptical/hesitant patients about the treatment methods in a tactful way, conveying to them the exact findings of the prognosis, explaining to them the possible prognosis options, being polite and courteous to elderly patients, etc.  Lagging behind in these skills can prove to be a big weakness for the career prospects of a healthcare professional.  Indeed, lacking in any of these skills can also prove to be detrimental for the patient.  Hence communication skills relating to dealing with patients are an essential part of the healthcare professional’s repertoire, lacking which professional practice cannot flourish.

The other essential communication skill required of healthcare professionals is technical writing skills. Clear and concise reports relating to prognosis, laboratory findings and diagnosis are to be generated on a daily basis.  Any deficiency in this skill can prove to be a big weakness for the professional.  In order to master this skill, the healthcare professional must also have good language comprehension and sentence composition skills.  Although these sound like elementary skills, the truth is not many are good at it.  Hence learning, practice and meticulous application of such skills are essential.  Technical writing skills are important in order for other referred healthcare professionals to properly interpret and understand the case history of patients.  In other words, record keeping is an integral part of the technical writing repertoire of doctors and other medical professionals.  A weakness in this skill can prove to be a great handicap for the professional.

Beyond these two core skills, verbal communication skills are also crucial.  Before the healthcare professionals commits to the records of the patient, he/she has to interact thoroughly with patients and ascertain the possible causes and cures for their complaints and articulate them verbally to the patient.  Hence, a medical professional who is reserved and introverted by nature would have to work on this weakness so that patients are in-the-know about what’s going on during a consultancy session.  It is also key that the professional is able to tailor his verbal communication to the audience he is facing.  For example, his approach to verbal communication should be markedly different in a public stage, when compared to a clinical setting.  Presentation skills, audience awareness, listening skills and positive body language are all sub-skills in this area.

References:

Dreesch N et al. “An approach to estimating human resource requirements to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”Health Policy and Planning, 2005; 20(5):267–276.

World Health Organization, 2006. The World Health Report 2006 – Working together for health. Geneva: WHOhttp://www.who.int/whr/2006/en/index.html

Dal Poz MR et al. (eds). Handbook on monitoring and evaluation of human resources for health, Geneva, World Health Organization, 2009 – available onhttp://www.who.int/hrh/resources/handbook/en/index.html