The Art of Communication Competence
The importance of being able to communicate well is vital for everyone and even more so for health care providers. In the health care profession the ability to be a competent communicator is truly a necessity and essential for good health care. Angela Perry author of Talking to Your doctor writes, “The highest level of satisfaction with medical care and the best treatment outcomes occur when both doctor and patient communicate openly and honestly and work together closely to achieve shared goals” (2). While this is proven to be true, we all too often hear and read about the lack of communication skills healthcare providers posses when dealing with their patients. This leaves us wondering, “What does it take for health care providers to communicate effectively and efficiently?” The “art of communication competence” is something that has been studied and looked at carefully for many years. Crowley and Heyer informed us, “It is an activity that goes back about one hundred thousand years ago as our early ancestors communicated through nonverbal gestures and has evolved into a complex system of spoken language (7). Beyond that, we now also realize that communication is much more than just language. It is multifaceted and consists of many different things. Thousands have even made a living trying to decide what makes a high-quality, competent communicator, and hundreds of books and movies show us the importance of first-rate communication and ways in which it can best be obtained. A well known movie that looks at the importance of competent communication in both health care and life is called “Patch Adams”. It takes a deep look at the magnitude of and different styles of communication frequently seen in the healthcare system. While viewing this movie and watching the relationships Robin Williams has with his patients, one can definitely see the significant role that competent communication has on a person’s social needs, identity needs, practical needs, and most of all, a person’s physical needs. The film leaves the viewer asking the same questions analysts all over the world ask, “How can we become a nation that realizes the importance of communication and all become competent communicators?” The answer may not come easy for everyone, but the communication style and relationships that the doctor shares with his patients in this movie reminds us that communication competence is achievable. All too often when people hear the words communicate, they think we are talking about language. While language is definitely an important part of communication, it is only a small piece of the whole puzzle. The text by Adler, Rosenfeld, and Proctor, reminds us that “Human communication is a complex process with many components (7). Even when we take a close look at language alone, we can see the many different aspects it is composed of and its importance. Despite the fact that it is not the only contributor to communication competence, it is a big one and throughout the movie, Patch Adams, you can’t help but notice the way in which Robyn Williams uses language to connect with his patients. In order to bridge the gap that often lies between patient and doctor, Patch uses language carefully, using “I” language in order to clarify messages, avoiding ambiguous language and dialectical tensions, and by using simple techniques like convergence in order to deeply connect and identify with others. For example, in the middle of the movie he meets a patient that is dying and lashes out furiously at Patch. Patch shows his ability to communicate well by staying calm and showing that it is important to,” Speak with honor and personal integrity even when the other person behaves badly” (Lerner 17). By giving an empathetic response he enables the patient to feel important, cared about, and understood; a concept often forgotten by physicians who tend to use divergence...
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