A STUDY ON NON- VERBAL COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES USED BY DOCTORS IN DOCTOR PATIENT INTERACTION. AREA OF INVESTIGATION
This study seeks to investigate the non-verbal communication strategies used by doctors in doctor-patient interactions during the initial consultation in a clinical setting. Non-verbal communication can be conceptualised as any form of communication that does not use the written or spoken word. (Birdwhistell: 1990, Melirabian: 1981).It is more than just body language since it includes, use of time, space, clothing, furniture, features of the environment (temperature, lighting) how we utter words (inflection, tone, volume) and it can occur in the absence of verbal communication through symbols and physical contexts. This study is in the broad area of interactive sociolinguistics which sees communication as the outcome of exchanges involving more than one active participant. In Zimbabwe, many complaints by patients about how doctors communicate non-verbally have being raised. The problem which this proposed study seeks to address is: What non-verbal communication strategies are used by Zimbabwean doctors and their impact on patients? In trying to address this research problem, the study will show that although Zimbabwean doctors consciously and unconsciously send and receive non-verbal messages most of them are not fully aware of the ways they communicate. Frequently doctors verbal messages conflict with their non-verbal behaviour making patients to feel anxious and uncertain. The importance of studying doctors non-verbal communication behaviour derives from the importance of non-verbal communication strategies to negative and positive outcomes of a medical consultation such as, recovery or illness, patient satisfaction or dissatisfaction, patient understanding or anxiety, accurate diagnosis, non compliance to treatment regime, litigation and the enormous costs of health care and the impact of these costs on the national economy. The failure to manipulate non-verbal communication strategies also leads to the use of non-traditional healthcare providers such as traditional healers ,acupuncturists, hypnotists and message therapists all of who are often perceived as more interested in the patient as a person. Due to the significant role that non-verbal behaviours play in doctor-patient interaction and the associations between physicians’ non-verbal behaviour and clinical outcomes it is important that doctors become aware of their voluntary and non-voluntary non-verbal behaviours so that they can manipulate them for positive clinical outcomes and minimise sending negative non-verbal cues. The quality of medical care rendered by a doctor depends on his knowledge, skill and medical equipment but the results achieved by a doctor in terms of success in both diagnosis and treatment are directly dependent upon his ability to communicate with his patients. In studying doctor-patient communication researchers have paid relatively more attention to verbal than non-verbal cues. As a consequence non-verbal communication has been seen as part of verbal communication since it validates verbal communication. In this regard this research will show that non-verbal strategies are different from verbal strategies because they serve different functions hence the need to be studied separately. Researchers have also come up with a number of different coding tools for verbal strategies (eg: Process Analysis system, Roter Interaction Analysis, The Verbal Response mode) while a few exist for non-verbal strategies (e.g.: Relational communication Scale). Non-verbal cues have been shown to have a universal meaning depending on the context and because of this contextual dependency there is no precise interpretation of non-verbal behaviour and our understanding of what specific doctors non-verbal cues signify remain scattered. Therefore this investigation is worth undertaking because it seeks to identify the non-verbal strategies used...
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