Reflections on communication

Today we learned about communication barriers and benefits, and some tools that are useful in ensuring that communication between team members is the clearest it can be, such as the Call Back method. We learned to appreciate cultural and personal differences in communication through the domino formation game. While we reflected on the game in large groups, it occurred to me that we missed going over something really important: idioms. Idioms are so prevalent in our everyday life that they seem like a natural and obvious part of our message. But what we don’t realize is that many foreigners may not be familiar with these idioms. I, myself, am an immigrant who has lived in the US for the past 14 years and I still struggle with some of the idioms people use so natural, so frequently. Many of the idioms in the US have to do with sports, especially baseball. Not many foreigners know baseball. It is a sport that is played in only several countries. We as providers need to be very conscientious of our use of idioms and avoid them in the healthcare setting because hospitals employees and patients are of diverse backgrounds. On the other hands, sometimes the use of idioms is one of the best ways to convey a message concisely. At the end of the day it is a judgement call, but I would think that avoiding idioms should be the “rule” not the “exception”.

Something interesting happened later that day as we were about to leave Arlington Cemetery back to Turf Valley. Seemingly everyone was on the bus and ready to go. Just after driving several yards, the bus came to a halt, and reversed back into a waiting spot by the curb. I’m not sure how many people noticed it because many were busy in conversation, but several of us were wondering why we weren’t on our way back. We waited in the bus for the next 20-30 minutes before we took off to Turf Valley. A few colleagues and I were wondering what’s going on. Why weren’t we driving back? Why was no one telling us why the bus is idle? We were kept in the dark regarding this odd event. On the other hand, we did not take an active role in looking into the reason the bus remained idle. Although this was not a hazardous event, I could see how this lack of communication could be a patient safety issue in the clinic. The persons that were handling the situation should inform the rest of the team that there is a situation (i.e. the bus is idle even though everyone seem to be on the bus), while the rest of the team should speak up when something seems “off” about the situation.