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Good communication underpins all aspects of professionalism and is critical to building professional relationships with colleagues, patients and other healthcare professionals.

Effective communication has the power to make a positive difference to all those involved, leading to improved patient satisfaction, more successful collaboration and better outcomes. For example, explaining treatment options using the most appropriate language encourages patients to take a more informed and active role in their health and builds trust and confidence.

The personal qualities that embody professionalism, such as empathy and compassion, are often displayed through communication with patients and offer reassurance to those who may have concerns about treatment.


Watch our video in which Jayesh, a Consultant Orthoptist, describes how good communication can help deliver the best patient outcomes.


Case studies

Below, healthcare professionals have shared their experiences of demonstrating professionalism through good communication.

One of my great mentors showed me that honesty in dealing with people is the best example of professionalism. I remember sitting in on a new patient appointment where he listened patiently to a gentleman who was clearly frustrated with the lack of knowledge demonstrated by other healthcare providers and their failure to provide an explanation for his condition.

By slowly and precisely explaining the issue to the patient and using appropriate language, the patient began to understand the situation. It was the start of a great professional relationship.

Professionalism for me is simply about providing an honest, frank opinion at a level suitable to the patient’s understanding and doing so without self-interest or gain, be that financial or otherwise. 

The honesty and openness of my colleague when explaining an unexpected outcome post-surgery to the patient during a postoperative clinical visit stands out as an example of professionalism.

My colleague spoke confidently but not arrogantly in owning up to mistakes and accepting that an error had been made. The options available to the patient to correct the unfortunate mistake were clearly explained alongside a structured plan. The patient was allowed to ask questions.

The information was delivered to the patient in a calm but confident manner. In the end, the patient accepted mistakes could happen and was left knowing that options were available to rectify the problem.

Effective communication is key to professionalism. Demonstrating confidence when things go wrong instils confidence in others and, more importantly, being honest and open are all vital attributes of professionalism.

A parent contacted my colleague seeking specialist equipment for her child with a life-limiting condition. Her older child with the same life-limiting condition had passed away a couple of years earlier, and the mother had not had a positive experience with the ‘health professionals’. Their actions had prevented her from spending quality time with her child as their condition deteriorated.  

The relationship between the patient’s mother and my colleague was collaborative which helped build trust and a good therapeutic relationship. My colleague listened to the mother and empathised with her previous experience and concerns. The mother was given all the available information about the service, but she was in charge of the decision-making process. As such, the mother was happy to keep my colleague involved.

When my colleague left the service, we were keen to maintain a consistent approach to the family, and that communications remained open. We ensured that one team member fully understood the family circumstances and case background. This approach meant the mother, who was already having a difficult time, did not have to keep re-telling her story. The family’s needs remained at the forefront.


Key learnings

Some of the key communication learnings identified from the personal experiences of healthcare professionals include:

  • Provide information at a level appropriate to the patient. Clear, non-medicalised communication empowers patients to take an active role in their care and ensures they are fully informed before starting treatment.
  • Listen to the patient without judgement. Taking the time to actively listen to a patient is key to establishing a good professional relationship. It sends a strong message that the patient’s health is the priority. Two-way conversations can often lead to a deeper understanding of the patient, which could influence treatment decisions.
  • Maintain composure during difficult discussions with patients, colleagues, and managers. Important conversations can ensure the entirety of the patient’s needs is addressed.
  • Be open and honest with both patients and colleagues.
  • Put patients and colleagues at ease simply by making conversation.

The importance of good communication is highlighted in The Code - Standards of conduct, performance and ethics for chiropractors, which outlines the importance of communicating effectively with patients to establish and maintain a professional relationship and encourage patients to take an informed role in their care.

Read more about the importance of good communication


Part three: Competence

Collaboration

A collaborative approach can lead to better coordination of patient care and more effective communication between health professionals.

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Competence

To deliver a high standard of patient care all healthcare professionals must demonstrate a high level of competence in their specific roles.

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Leadership

Managers and leaders must lead by example, demonstrating a professional approach through their own values, attitude and behaviours. 

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Patient-centred care

Patient-centred care puts the patient at the very centre of their treatment.

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