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The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which is a non-governmental regulator of health and social care in England listed ‘people involvement in their own care’ as one of its themes. This is to mean, to attain an improved level of health and social care it is imperative to involve people in their own care and in this regard, CQC suggests that service providers should develop personalised care plans through the collaborative efforts of caregivers, patients, and their loved ones. Secondly, there should be sustained involvement of caregivers and family members in the care of the patient. Based on the recommendations that were presented by CQC it can be extrapolated that the prerequisite of involving people in their own care is through effective communication between caregivers, patients, and their loved ones/family members.
Besides CQC, the need for effective communication in health and social care as prerequisite for achieving efficacy in the treatment and care process was also stated by Schuetz et al (2010); Johnson (2011) and Brophy et al (2014) who stated that empirical studies affirm that collaborative care is without a doubt pivotal whilst seeking to offer quality care to patients. Collaborative care entails the caregivers, patients, and their loved ones working together to ensure the patient's unique needs are catered for rather than implementing a standardised care that is devoid of patients’ unique preference. Again in this instance, effective communication is still a prerequisite for achieving a perfect level of collaboration.
The critical importance of effective communication in health and social care has informed the topic of discussion for this paper, in particular, using the case study of Adrian Jones who has chronic breathing problems thereby relies on oxygen most of the time and is in constant need of care from his family and caregiver both at home and when he is admitted to the hospital, this paper will seek to demonstrate and justify the importance of communication in health and social care settings.
In the writings by Platonova & Shewchuk (2015), they stated the main reason for effective communication in health and social care is to ensure the proposed treatment and/or care plan is in tandem with the needs of the patients i.e. it will address or resolve the ailment or discomfort facing the patient. Without effective treatment, it is highly likely the caregiver will be administering the wrong treatment or care plan much to the disadvantage of the patient. Swearingen (2016) stated that pediatric and mental health care is always faced with the challenge of effective communication owing to the fact that pediatric patients are usually minors who are yet to fully develop their communication skills while some mental health patients usually have communication impairments that make it hard for them to effectively communicate with their caregivers as well as family members. To bypass this challenge and administer an effective treatment and care plan for these special patients, caregivers rely on effective communication between themselves and their loved ones/ family members (Constand et al 2014).
The importance of effective communication in health and social care starts from the fact that it helps in establishing a cordial relationship between caregivers, patients, and their loved ones. Through the cordial relationship, the patients and caregivers will feel free to share all the symptoms as experienced by the patient and the caregivers will feel free to interrogate further with the intent of establishing more symptoms or progress (Brophy et al, 2014). In a scenario where the caregivers, patients, and family members fail to communicate effectively they will be uneasy with each other to an extent the patient will not be willing to reveal too much information whilst the caregiver will not be free to ask too many questions because h/she will be unsure or uncomfortable with the patient’s likely response. Moreover, failure to establish effective communication between the caregiver and the patient would cause the patient to fail in reporting negative response from the treatment and care being administered while the caregiver will not be motivated to keep constant communication with the patient to establish the efficacy of treatment and care that is being administered.
The other importance of effective communication in health and social care is the fact that it bolsters the spirit or collaboration, which ensures each stakeholder, takes an active role in the provision of treatment and care for the patient. By maintaining an open communication channel amongst the stakeholders, the patients and their loved will feel respected and hence they will share their opinion on the causes of the illness and even possible remedies based on their knowledge (Johnson, 2011). On the other hand, the caregivers will be inspired by the openness of the patients and their loved ones to a point they will constantly seeking their input in the care process and Van Til & IJzerman (2014) noted that this is likely to lead to administration of effective health and social care much to the pleasure of the patient.
To achieve effective communication it is imperative to determine the communication needs and preference of a patient i.e. what a patient needs to communicate effectively, preferred mode, timing, and set-up for communication (Constand et al 2014). Once this has been determined by the caregivers and loved ones they can ensure the communication takes place when all the prerequisites have been met thereby allowing the patient to give accurate information about the symptoms and even the progress of treatment that is being administered (Street et al 2012).
For example, in the case of Mr. Jones he is unable to talk for long periods and on most occasions, he is always tired and hence tends to sleep a lot. Therefore, to clearly establish whether he is able to breathe well or he is experiencing any form of discomfort the care workers as well as his wife and children need to ensure they ask short and precise questions when he is completely awake i.e. after a nap. Failure to adhere to his need and preference will mean that the care workers and his family will be subjecting Mr. Jones to long talks even when he is sleepy and there are high chances he will not be giving accurate or in-depth information in relation to how he is feeling and the impact of medication that are being administered to him.
When seeking to promote effective communication, the most suitable approach is usually through verbal communication which allows for further discussions between the caregiver and the patient (Bryan, 2009). For example, by undertaking a verbal communication with Mr. Jones the care workers can interrogate further to establish other additional information that might help in improving the quality of care offered to him.
The second approach when promoting effective communication in health and social care is through non-verbal communication i.e. body movements or actions. According to Barnard (2010), actions speaks louder than words and non-verbal communication cannot hide the true feeling of a patient, unlike verbal communication whereby a patient can lie or exaggerate a situation. By relying on non-verbal communication the care workers can assess the breathing pattern of Mr. Jones by using a stethoscope to gauge whether he is in a good condition or not. Moreover, non-verbal communication also promotes effective communication when the patient is unable to communicate verbally, for example, if the patient is a toddler, mental ill, or is in a grievous medical condition such as a coma and hence unable to speak.
Other resources that can be used to promote effective communication between caregivers and patients include drawings, writings, objects off references and gestures through, which the patient demonstrate his condition or the caregiver can use to make an inquiry. In addition, the services of a sign language interpreter can be used in case the patient is unable to speak (Bryan, 2009).
Hearing problems and speaking disabilities are the most critical barriers to effective communication in the health and social care setting. However, this can be overcome through the use of sign language. Roebuck (2016) laments that not all caregivers are proficient in sign language, however, it is crucial for every health facility to have at least on caregiver with such skills and thereby act as interpreter between patient and the care team.
The other barrier to effective communication is language barrier whereby the patient and the caregiver speak a different language. In such a situation, Moss (2007) suggest the use of an interpreter i.e. a person who understands the foreign language and hence capable of interpreting it to the other person.
Thirdly, cultural differences in many cases also create a barrier to achieving effective communication since persons from a different culture might interpret certain words, body language or gestures a different or opposite manner than it was intended. According to Moss (2007), globalisation has made it a necessity for caregivers to have multicultural knowledge since they are bound to serve anybody regardless of culture, race, gender, or ethnicity. Therefore, background knowledge on different cultures can enable caregivers to effectively communicate with patients from different cultures.
Lastly, in health and social care, there is usually a unique barrier to effective communication and this is the use of medical jargons that are difficult for lay patients to interpret. To overcome this barrier medical practitioner are continually advised to use simple words when communicating with patients to ensure they understand what is being communicated (Roebuck, 2016).
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