The Importance of Communication Skills for Your Chosen Residency Program

7 min read
Olivia Kelly, MD
Updated April 23, 2021
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The Importance of Communication Skills for Your Chosen Residency Program

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Healthcare professionals are usually tasked with the diagnosis of the condition of individuals and the formulation of an effective therapeutic plan to address these issues. However, effective information dissemination to the patient must be also employed to ensure that comprehension and understanding are evident for each session that they perform. Communicating effectively becomes a deceptively vague skill that has been previously overlooked by medical professionals, especially considering that the load of information being processed during medical school is too much to handle even by itself. Programs aimed at improving the professionals’ effective communication have been established in various universities, and studies show that it is indeed effective to utilize such methods to improve their overall practice. However, it likewise shows that there is an underestimation of such an important skillset – implying the need for a more effective program that should instill the importance of such.

By the time that you’re taking up your residency, it would be helpful to realize the importance of effective communication to ensure that the patient’s understanding of the disease is holistic, that the physician will be able to provide sufficient emotional and psychological support, and basically to improve their overall clinical competence. Thoroughly recognizing this parameter is essential as its recognition is just as important as learning the skill.

Improve the Patient’s Understanding of their Condition

Communicating with the patient is one of the most crucial parts of this profession. It is inevitable whatever program it is you’re taking up. A physician’s or a nurse’s interaction with the patient involves an exchange of information to sufficiently inform them of the various aspects of their condition. This would generally require the professional to explain how the diagnosis was arrived at, what parts and results were examined, and how they arrived at that conclusion. This will also involve various interventions that could be done by the patient and other options that they could consider to address their disease.

For every step mentioned, the professional must be at least fluent and clear when delivering this information. Being able to effectively explain everything – from medical terminologies to vague data values that are usually analysed by accredited professionals – ensures comprehension and minimizes medical errors. By making the patient aware of their condition, they are guided as to what needs to be done and what needs to be avoided to make their therapeutic regimen as effective as possible. It is an implied necessity for being a professional. However, it is being overlooked with the focus being mainly funnelled to studying factoids and trivia. Aside from being a medical professional who is well-versed in the functionality of the human body, it is also essential that the dissemination of such information is also possible. Otherwise, it would just stay as it is – a lump of information that is barely limited to a simple recall.

Providing Sufficient Emotional and Psychological Support

It is not unbeknownst to everyone that taking up medicine involves providing both good and bad news. Patient interaction does not only involve delivering miraculous feats or life-changing interventions that would ensure a patient’s safety. Throughout the procedure, both the patient and the physician are subject to unknowns, doubts, and various indeterminate factors that could effectively be damaging to a person’s mentality and emotion. Recognizing if a patient is sad, worried, or anxious about their condition is an important skill for being a well-rounded medical professional. However, it is even more essential to be able to communicate with the patient with consideration for these thoughts that are running around their mind.

Being able to hone one’s communication skills also means being able to say the right things, especially when a patient has a lot of issues that they are currently struggling with. Apart from being able to say the right things, they should also be aware of when to speak, and when to keep quiet. Being able to recognize all of this makes for a professional who recognizes one’s struggles and empathizes with their problems. The very fact that an individual is subject to a physician’s examination already induces anxiety and a million thoughts. Being that buffer that they needed would effectively eliminate other psychological factors that could be aggravating their condition and make them at ease and confident that they are in the right hands. Considering how they’re already subject to various uncertainties, the least that professionals could do is provide them with enough support and help.

Encouraging Interprofessional Collaboration

The terminology “healthcare professional” is not strictly limited to physicians and nurses. It involves a wide spectrum that includes social workers, pharmacists, and other professionals whose main focus is also within the definition of medicine. As of today, the delivery of healthcare is becoming more and more interconnected, utilizing ideas from various fields to create a new approach to previously handled conditions. This is also essential in addressing untreatable diseases as varying perspectives could provide a more holistic examination and an innovative analysis of the condition.

As such, being able to participate in an effective conversation with these other professionals will make information exchange smoother and more productive. Being able to gauge the context of a conversation and contribute effectively is essential in trying to extract information and in providing information back. Interprofessional collaboration requires that participants are effective in relaying crucial information as it is a conversation that aims to create an avenue for an effective discussion. Healthcare is now anchored on multiple disciplines and being able to interact with other professionals allows for such disciplines to be equally examined and considered in planning the intervention most suitable for a patient. It might be a simple human conversation from a plain perspective but being able to navigate through this conversation is a completely different matter that needs skill and sufficient preparation. It might’ve been overlooked in the past but the rise of new strains and new variations requires different disciplines to work together and provide a significant input to address such changes.

Ace Your Interviews

Being a healthcare professional is a long and tedious process starting from your undergraduate degree up to your residency program. Throughout this time, you will be encountering various interviews to either be able to enter the medical school of your choice or be selected for the residency program that you have applied for. Either way, being able to communicate well is a key factor to be able to pass and preferably ace such interviews and ensure your success.

For an interview for that matter, communication skills will almost always reflect the quality of the candidate – making it an integral factor that most interviewers examine and thoroughly analyse. A well-developed communicator would be able to fluently answer the provided questions with a sense of authenticity and with minimal fillers and unnecessary responses. As such, being able to practice or being able to anticipate how the interview will proceed is an important thing to take note of when practicing for such an interview. In addition to that, as you develop your communication skills, you will also be able to weave together a series of well-versed and thoroughly thought-of responses for whatever question is asked by the interviewer. This, combined with effective body language such as having a friendly demeanour, avoiding excessive body movements, and exuding confidence will all contribute to raise your cause and improve your overall standards. As evident in the previously mentioned key details, most of these qualities will naturally come as you develop your communication skills. Being able to practice regularly and consistently will help hone such skills that will further prepare you for either your actual practice or for the hurdles throughout your path towards your goal.

Communication is Key: A Cliché That Still Holds True

Communication is a very versatile tool that is utilized in whatever profession it is that you’re going to take. Being able to converse effectively will not only help you explain and deliver your thoughts but will also allow you to recognize the thought processes of others. A conversation is a two-way street that allows for an effective exchange of information so long as the participants can recognize cues and are also able to express themselves well.

Lacking such skill is a critical flaw in any individual flaw who aims to be successful and reach greater heights. Communication is essential as it is the driving factor in every discussion and every interaction. By not refining your communication skills, everything is confined to the recesses of your mind – stuck and simply roaming around with nowhere to go. What makes it worse is that without having to communicate with others, such a pool of knowledge will remain to be as shallow as it is. Expanding one’s horizons is not simply limited to textbooks and information pages. Human interaction provides more for us than is usually perceived. Through such interactions, an exchange of ideas is performed, collaboration is induced, and learning is subsequently generated. It might be a cliché statement, but it certainly holds its truth.


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