Communication: not a script, but a process

Today I appreciated reviewing and learning more about communication. I have always believed in the power of sensitive word choice, and it is here for the first time in my medical education that there has been emphasis on that. It is a big deal to learn about how patient and family voices can become heard through patient safety advisory councils. Seeing members of this advisory council here shows me that patients and families do want to be involved, and we should support and welcome that in healthcare. The presence of such councils exemplifies putting the ideal of patient centeredness into action through a changes in infrastructure that officially give voice to patients and families once kept largely in the dark about their loved ones cases. I really appreciate that the learning experiences today reflect patient/family-centered attitudes by hearing directly from people who can speak from personal experience. As stated today, let’s not say “I understand” when we really don’t. Let’s listen to those who do.

We have been introduced to the statistics that 50% of communication is verbal while the remaining 50% is nonverbal, including body language and posture. Our simulation with informing a patient family about a tragic death was unexpectedly informative because it demonstrated how hard it is to plan for conversations that go unexpected directions. It showed that there is a limit to how much we can plan in terms of verbal flow, but also demonstrated that a big part of it is showing care through nonverbal gestures like leaning in and maintaining presence and eye contact. Overall, it is empowering to know that through sensitive word choice or body language we can make change in a personal way. But also it is a sobering reminder that communication is an ongoing process and not just a predefined script.