Communication Between Patients & Health Care Workers

Instructor: Kristin Lundsten

Kristin has taught pediatric and psychiatric nursing and has a master's degree in nuring education

This lesson will define two types of communication used between patients and health care workers. The differences between therapeutic communication in the patient-health care worker relationship will be examined. Read on for more information.

Types of Communication

Communication is an interactive process that takes place between two or more people. It is the exchange of messages. Messages can be sent or received. There are two main types of communication: verbal and non verbal.

Non-verbal communication is communication that is sent without words. It is done through our body language, eye contact (or lack thereof), facial expressions, distance, tone, volume, and intonation. In fact, most of the communicating we do is non-verbal. For example, a doctor enters an exam room to meet a patient and avoids eye contact with the patient, taps her pen on the counter as the patient speaks and moves quickly around the room. The pen tapping, lack of eye contact and quick motion, all communicate a message to the patient that the doctor is in a hurry and distracted.

Verbal communication is the communication we do through words. It is our primary instrument of instruction.

Any type of communication between the patient and health care worker is very important. It is how health care workers educate patients about medications, treatments, and other important health related instructions. Communication between a health care provider and patient should always be respectful, clear, and professional.

Create Therapeutic Relationships

How we communicate may affect whether or not a relationship is therapeutic or non-therapeutic. The health care worker and patient relationship should always be a therapeutic relationship. A therapeutic relationship is one in which the patient is the center of the relationship. The health care worker should always be communicating in a way that is promoting the patient's independence, recovery, and strengths.

In order for a relationship to be therapeutic, the health care provider must ensure that the communication he or she is sending is congruent. Congruent communication is when a person's non-verbal signals are aligned with a person's verbal communication. Communication that is not congruent causes confusion and mistrust in a relationship.

Let's suppose in our earlier example, the doctor now also says 'I have plenty of time to discuss your issue with you.' This statement is incongruent with the doctor's non-verbal cues.

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