The following discussion focuses on communication, describing the literature which underpins current practice of this core skill in health care settings. For clarity purposes the writer will initially define the term, “communication” as a core skill, in current practice then concentrate on Active Listening – its effects on client(s), staff, and the safety issues involved.
Hugman (2009) defines communication as the sending and receiving of a message, signal, information and data. Effective communication can be verbal, non-verbal or even both. Miller and Nicholson’s 1976 study (cited Arnold and Boggs 2007, p15) shows that communication is a unique skill that has a high influence in the receiver’s behaviour. Hence, health care professionals need to have a comprehensive understanding of the appropriate aspects of communication in dealing with clients in a society of multi-cultural diversity. One of the most vital aspects of communication is active listening which helps them to understand both words and underlying thoughts and feelings of their clients (Moss 2008 and Burnard 2000). According to www.studygs.net/listening, active listening is, “a habit as well as the foundation of effective communication. It doesn’t necessarily mean to agree but understand what they are saying”.
As an important aspect of effective communication, active listening provides a solid base of a nurse-client relationship and individuals know themselves and others even through silence (Arnold and Boggs 2009), thus through verbal and non-verbal (body language) communication. Health professionals who listen actively to patients are likely to make an accurate, comprehensive diagnosis to detect emotional distress in patients and respond appropriately. Patients will be less anxious because they will have received satisfactory treatment and are able to follow the advice given to them by the health professionals. A study carried out on patients showed that patients who were not allowed to share their concerns about their problems had higher blood pressure compared to those who shared concerns about their problems, (Lloyd and Bor 2009).
Active listening enables the sender, (the health professional), to make sure that the message has been heard and understood and the correct feedback received (Hugman 2009), hence, correct diagnosis is done to a client. Some of the basic skills for active listening are; . . . initiative, empathetic and self aware as possible, having an open and attentive body orientation of posture, paying attention to non-verbal forms of communication and meaning, being aware of our own distracting mannerisms and behaviour, . . . unclear ambiguous comments, being aware of the importance of people (client) finding their own words in their own time, remembering the importance of the setting and the general physical environment, minimising the possibility of interruptions and distractions, checking out and seeking feedback wherever possible and appropriate, being aware of the importance of timing, particularly where strong feelings are concerned, remembering the importance of tone, avoid making premature judgements or evaluations, . . . (Moss 2008).
Burnard (2000) p cited Egan guidelines on active listening stating how to sit when listening to patients, known as S.O.L.E.R acronym; S-sit squarely in relation to the person, maintain an O-open position, L-lean slightly towards the other person, maintain reasonable E- eye contact with them and try to R-relax.
Active listening also helps clients to open up dialogue – willing misunderstanding, resolving conflict and building trust, increased patient satisfaction, improving cross-cultural communication, increased outcomes and avoid litigation. For instance, when a nurse actively listens to a client she gets to understand the patient’s situation and starts to build a trusting relationship (Arnold and Boggs 2009). Trusting relationship creates a foundation which enables curing,...
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