In any health and social care setting communication is extremely important. The way we communicate with people depends on the situation and the environment; there are different types of health and social care settings some of these include, residential nursing homes, hospitals, doctor’s surgery and schools and many more. There are a huge range of people that use these services and we call these the service users, each service user has different needs that must be met.
Health and social care professionals will communicate with service users, whether this is delivering news from a nurse to a patient or discussing a child’s progress at a parents evening at school. Not only will you have interactions with the service users but you will interact with colleagues, visitors and there are many reasons to why you may need to interact with these people, whether it’s to discuss, inform or review situations.
There are two main contexts of communication in health and social care; these are one-to-one and group communication. Firstly one-to-one communication is interacting with just one other individual this could be face-to-face, speaking over the telephone or email, or other private messaging. The theory of one-to-one communication was developed by Michael Argyle (1972) he described interpersonal communication as like learning to drive a car. “When you drive a car you have to change your behaviour depending on what is happening on the road.”
He means that you have to watch what you’re doing all the time, responding to everything by thinking them through first, and then constantly repeating this until you have reached your destination. He believed that when communicating with a person there is a cycle, this cycle contains six stages. Stage one, an idea occurs; this makes us think and assess the situation before we begin to communicate, we should think about what we are trying to say and send it in a clear and effective way.
Stage two is where message is then coded; this is where we become aware of the different methods we could use in order to send our message. For this to happen we should consider the most effective method of communication, this depends on the situation and the person to whom we are wanting to communicate with. When we send the message in stage three we need to make sure that we have chosen the most effective communication method, and that we have used it in the correct way.
The message has been has been received in stage four and the recipient has to process the message that has just been given to them. Stage five is when the service user must attempt to decode the message; this is a vital stage of the communication cycle if the message is decoded correctly assumptions could be made. Finally the message is understood and they are able to communicate back, now the cycle can begin anew. One-to-one communication is important in health and social care settings as it allows people to communication individually but also allows for confidentiality and privacy.
I experienced Argyles communication cycle personally when I took part in a role play interaction that portrayed a young girl being told she was pregnant by an A&E nurse. During the role play I acted as the teenage girl being told she was pregnant and my peer acted as the nurse telling her, we demonstrated effective communication as throughout there were no issues in decoding the messages, there were no misunderstandings and we were able to send the correct messages to each other. By experiencing the communication cycle first hand I’m able to fully appreciate how effective it can be when used correctly.
The interaction I took part in is one of many ways that one-to-one communication can be demonstrated. Health care professionals need a variety of different skills to allow one-to-one communication to work effectively. These include being able to listen to what people have to say, the ability to establish and endure conversations and the ability to observe and respond to non-verbal communication. One-to-one interactions are usually more formal, they happen in health and social care settings with colleagues and service users.
Formal conversations allow to you speak with respect and in a professional manner regarding the subject you need to talk about. For example at a hospital a nurse may have to explain to a service user that they are going to carry out tests on the patient to discover the cause of his or her pain. Formal interactions may happen between two colleagues as well, an example of this would be if one colleague in a school had to talk to her manager about an incident she had witnessed involving a student and a teacher.
As a health and social care professional formal conversations will happen every day as you will meet new people and other professionals every day. The other main context of communication in health and social care is the group communication. A group interaction is interacting with two or more people. The theory of the group formation process was developed by Bruce Tuckman (1965). The theory focuses on the way in which a team tackles a task and is particularly relevant to team building challenges but can apply to any group work.
Tuckman famously described group formation in terms of four stages, forming, group members come together and ask basic questions about the aim of the group and their role within it and a leader usually emerges in this stage. Storming is the next stage; members argue over the purpose of the group and may challenge the aims of the group leader. Norming is where the group’s identity develops, they share a strong set of values and norms and group culture emerges, the group work together to resolve conflict. The last stage is performing this is when the group members finally mature and get down to working effectively together.
They focus on the overall goal and the relationships and are more comfortable, the leadership is less direct and the group performs more effectively. In health and social care settings, the professionals need to have an understanding of the group process and patterns of group behaviours in order to interact and communicate well in the various group situations that they experience. Being able to understand how groups form and develop is an important part of this. I also took part in a role play that enabled me to understand Tuckman’s theory of group formation.
During this interaction I devised the role of a therapist at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, my peers took the role of alcoholics attempting to stay sober, and at the meeting each of the members told their story of why they started to drink and their steps in overcoming their addiction. My role was to introduce everyone and keep the meeting organised and managed. Before we preformed the interaction we had to plan the role play and in doing so we experienced many of the steps that Tuckman describes. However, we didn’t experience them all as we didn’t argue and conflict didn’t occur.
Despite this by the end of the role play we all had a better understanding of Tuckman’s theory and how it can apply to health and social care. Verbal communication is vital in health and social care settings, it allows clarification and provides information that could have been missed or misunderstood when using non-verbal methods. Verbal communication gives us the opportunity to produce new relationships, pass on important information and the delivery of a casual conversation. To guarantee we produce effective verbal communication we need to be able to assess situations and assess the individual we are communicating with.
To do this we need to try and deliver the message in a way that it can only be understood and interpreted in one way, more often than not we can say something that could be interpreted in different ways. This could lead to confusion and distress if the receiver does not understand. Another factor we should consider when talking about verbal communication is our clarity of speech, if we speak in a quiet voice often our words go unheard or are misunderstood and the recipient could misunderstand what we are saying or mistake it for a word that sounds familiar.
When talking about verbal communication we have to keep in mind that there are often misunderstandings, these could occur through the use of jargon and slang. If we used jargon around a service user the user could feel as though they are being patronised, therefore we should communicate at a level in which we both understand. By using professional words through the use of jargon and phrases unknown to the service user could lead them to feel intimidated.
Likewise if the individual is impaired, we may need to introduce non-verbal communication methods such as symbols, sign language, hand gestures or Braille in order for the individual to fully understand what we are trying to say using a method they understand best. I have been in many situations in which I have felt effective verbal communication being achieved, for instance, when I have visited the doctors I have had little to no knowledge on the topic of medicine and so the doctor explained to me without the use of jargon, examples and phrases that help me to relate and understand what he is saying in a simple way.
By the doctor doing this it helped me to grasp what he was saying and fully understand the concept. Non-verbal communication also has a vital role within health and social care settings, whilst communicating verbally we are sometimes unaware that we are also communicating non-verbally, although we could be unaware that we are doing it, it’s helping us in creating effective communication.
Body language expresses our feelings, for an example if we don’t like a person it can be difficult to say that directly to them, bearing this in mind we can make it clear that we don’t like them, it could be done intentionally or unintentionally through the use of our body language. Formal and informal communication is the way in which we communicate depending on the situation and how we relate to the person. For an example if you were communicating with your boss the way in which we speak to them would be formal, the content language we use and manner of the conversation would be professional and to the point.
However, if you were having a conversation with a friend it would be relaxed and casual without a main topic of conversation. To be able to communicate effectively there is a two way process where an individual sends an idea and the receiver understands it. This is a key in health and social care as the significance of communication and understanding colleagues, service users and visitors could cause a radical change and provide you with fundamental information. This is important when service users and families use a service as it’s an ideal way to build a good relationship and promote trust.
By being able to communicate effectively health care professionals will allow you to become an advocate for someone, having this role will mean you’d pass a message on and know that it will be received in it’s true form which will enable a trust to develop. By communicating effectively it allows us to build a trusting relationship and permits the other to feel comfortable, understand and feel assured that we are all speaking the truth and communicating in the best effective way. By writing this essay I have learnt that communication is a lot more complicated than I first pictured and has a lot more to it than I realised.
Having a job within health and social care is important and every role that you may come across is different especially when you come to communicate with a service user. It is extremely important to form bonds of trust and to form relationships, because without effective communication, you are unable to interact to the best of your ability which would mean it would be harder to form a professional relationship with the service users which would affect the outcomes of the service being provided.
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