Is Communication An Ongoing Issue Within Healthcare?


It’s been a while since I last wrote, but during that time I have been back working clinically as well as having my educational role.

During this time whilst undertaking some clinical work I have experienced that communication is still the root cause of many frustrations amongst health care staff (and the world!).

Despite the abundance of research evidence that indicates communication among health care team members influences the quality of working relationships, job satisfaction and that it profoundly impacts patient care and safety as the Mid Staffordshire Report showed; why are there still communication issues within the healthcare setting and multi-disciplinary team?

From an educational perspective communication, patient care and safety are integral aspects of the curriculum as well as also being standards that are expected from our professional bodies. So then why is it that communication seems to be such a problematic issue when it is a skill and expectation across all health care workers to have?

The day to day running of a radiology department appears to have a wealth of communication frustrations that simply do not need to occur; of which I feel that you will all agree.

For example not knowing that a radiographer is required for an elective procedure in theatre (I ask myself; why was this not communicated to the department when the theatre list was arranged) does this sound familiar?

Doctors not happy with image quality but no communication made to explain the issues to hopefully then address the problems and see an improvement? Or perhaps is there a reason for the image quality and this is not communicated to the referrer?

Patients not appropriately prepped when they are sent down to the department, even though phone calls have been made stating what is required but no reason given as to why this has not happened.

Are internal processes problematical and it is these that need to be altered?

Or is it a case that in this age where social media and technology has taken over that people have forgotten to communicate with one another in the flesh?

Either way, why has this not been addressed?

Instead I have seen frustrations on a day to day basis and the proposal of communicating with other professionals in order to resolve these common issues never occurs.

Why is this? When, as per our professional bodies advise, it is an expectation that we should all be able to communicate using a variety of methods.

Whilst undertaking my voluntary work in Zambia, communication also appeared to be problematical. The same frustrations occurring.

Referrers complaining about image quality but the reasons behind this are not poor radiography skills but in fact due to chemical temperatures or the running out of film. Although these are not reasons that would occur in the UK the problem here is that these reasons were not communicated to the referrers via the radiographers. Therefore, resulting in two groups of unhappy health care workers.

I proposed the question “why can you not discuss this with one another” stunned silence. Not too dissimilar to the reactions back home so this ‘communication’ skill seems to be a world-wide problem.

So I ask this, as I have asked myself several times over the past 8 months, why do we claim to be able to communicate and be good communicators when really, it would appear that simple conversations seem hard these days?

I propose that given the wealth of evidence supporting the importance of good communication; the necessity of addressing simple communication skills is of utmost importance.

Do you agree? 


Kay Hackett

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