How to Improve Clinical and Lab Communication
Good communication comes in handy a hundred times a day, but in a healthcare setting, it’s a matter of life and death.
Decades of studies have shown a clear and significant correlation between a clinician’s ability to explain, listen, and empathize with biological and functional health outcomes — not to mention patient satisfaction.
With so much on the line, here are a few tips for improving your communication, whether you’re on the computer, in the lab, or on the floor.
Improving provider-patient communication
Considering less than 50 percent of patients can name their diagnoses or their medication when they’re discharged from the hospital, you know communication between providers and their patients needs to be better. That’s critical information!
With clarity in mind, here are a few ways to make sure your expertise is heeded and your patients’ time is respected:
- Make eye contact.
- Avoid medical jargon.
- Position yourself on the patient’s level when talking.
- Ask the patient to repeat instructions back in their own words.
Related resource: A Healthcare Professional’s Guide to Clear Patient Communication
Better clinical communication
In the clinical setting, surrounded by nurses, doctors, and administrators, you’ll find communicators of all types. It’s extremely important to maintain clear verbal and written communication between colleagues.
For most of our graduates, charting is a large part of communication. You’ve probably had the frustration of trying to interpret someone else’s squiggles — er, “notes.” Most healthcare workers have a love-hate relationship with charting. Here’s how to increase the charting love factor:
- Be objective and neutral. Only note what you see, hear, and feel. If information isn’t germane to the patient’s condition, it doesn’t belong in your charting notes.
- Chart right away. Your notes will be more accurate if you write it down as soon as possible after the event occurs. That might not be possible on a busy floor, but if you chart throughout the day, your notes will be more accurate, and you won’t have to do it at the end of your shift!
- Be accurate. The information from your notes will inform how the patient is treated in the future, and might even affect the patient’s outcome. With so much on the line, accuracy is critical.
- Know your facility’s abbreviation policy. If an abbreviation isn’t approved, don’t use it.
Related resource: The Do’s and Don’ts of Charting and Documenting as a New Nurse
Verbal clinical communication
The easiest way to promote good verbal communication? Get off your phone. When interacting with doctors, nurses, and other coworkers in a clinical setting, give them your full attention. That means making eye contact — and don’t even think about glancing at your phone during a conversation!
Clarity in the lab
Communication in a laboratory setting can be inspiring, because it’s between colleagues with common interests working on different projects. Aren’t you curious about what they’re doing?
One way to initiate it? Ask for advice. Almost everyone appreciates being asked for their opinion; it shows respect for the other person’s body of knowledge and demonstrates your own openness to ideas.
Take a daily walk around the lab and ask questions. Stop by the whiteboard, make notes, and ask for ideas. Once you establish regular communication, everyone is more comfortable asking questions when something isn’t clear.
Because people work so closely in a lab environment, they must interact. Take time to learn what communication styles work best for your colleagues. One person might want a cup of coffee in the morning before diving into a conversation, while another might prefer an email. Respecting different styles is key to positive, clear interactions in the lab.
Related resource: Why Every Dental Lab Needs Better Communication With Dentists
Clear communication and best practices for charting are a large part of a rigorous curriculum in all of our programs. To learn more about nursing, medical assisting, or our other healthcare programs, see our program page.