THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION IN THE MEDICAL FIELD

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Dr. Steve Pate is a General Diagnostic Radiologists at Lincoln General Hospital in Ruston, Louisiana. Dr. Pate’s path to medicine began at Louisiana Tech University, where he received his Bachelors of Science Degree in 1986. Soon after graduation he attended LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport, Louisiana where he received his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. His residency was completed at the Diagnostic Radiology Residency program at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas and he has been proudly practicing medicine for over 27 years. Today, he eagerly expresses his passion for radiology and ensures patients are provided with the best care he can possibly provide.

What is Radiology?

There are very few people who practice General Diagnostic Radiology, like Dr. Pate. Since he is employed in such a small practice, he must be extremely versatile. When he went through training he learned “imaging, CT, MR, ultrasound, mammography, regular x-rays, GI, GU, and specials or interventional procedures.” The best way to describe him would be the jack-of-all-trades because he must practice general radiology across the spectrum.

What is the Importance of Effective Communication With Your Patients?

On an average day, Dr. Pate performs highly personal procedures on patients that he has never met before. He stressed the importance of creating a trusting relationship with a patient immediately after entering the examination room. He said, “You have to establish your rapport with the patient. Communication is the key to establishing trust in a relationship and letting them know that you care.” There was emphasis on how critical it is to listen to a patient and ask the most beneficial questions. “It is also very important to get an adequate history because some procedures can only be done at certain times. Relaying what you are going to do to the patient, getting a legal medical consent, and establishing trust are all important,” Dr. Pate states. Many procedures can be uncomfortable or unsettling for patients, so effective communication is critical for patient care.

How do you Communicate With Other Doctors?

Dr. Pate uses an app called AstraChat that securely allows doctors to communicate with one another in accordance to HIPAA guidelines. Otherwise, if it’s day-to-day business, “we will call or usually when there is a case I need help with or I need a second opinion on, I pick up the phone and call one of my partners.” I quickly realized there is little room for pride or an enlarged ego as a doctor. Dr. Pate showed willingness to communicate with his partners on a regular basis in order to properly analyze a case and diagnose his patients.

What are the Benefits of Having Stable Relationships With Fellow Employees?

Just like in any hospital, it takes an array of employees to create a well-functioning environment. Everyone is on a team and they all must work together “from the janitor to the CEO.” Dr. Pate reiterated the importance of his technologists trusting him and having the ability to speak up because they all lend the patient care. He said, “I’m not perfect. Things get by me. If the technologists feel like they can help you out and talk to you, in the long run it improves the care of the patient, which is what we are here for.” If you possess stable relationships with fellow employees, you’re more likely to possess stable relationships with your patients. It’s a win-win situation.

 

Eva Edinger, guest blogger

http://www.rustonlincoln.org/list/member/northern-louisiana-medical-center-5207

The Importance of Technical Communications in Pharmacy

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Alexa Lemon is a pharmacist at Walgreen’s in Ruston, Louisiana. She started out as a pharmacy technician ten and a half years ago. She has now been a pharmacist for two years with a degree from McWhorter School of Pharmacy at Samford University. Today, she practices her love of helping people through ensuring that they are properly given the medicines that will make them healthier.

What types of communication are used in a Pharmacy?

On an average day, Alexa uses several types of communication such as reading, writing, listening and speaking. However, according to her, listening is the most predominant. She said, “It’s critical that we listen in the pharmacy to prevent mistakes.” Alexa stresses that oral communication is more important than technical communication in the pharmacy. “Depending on how you speak to a patient can influence their attitude,” Lemon says.  With certain situations concerning confusing things such as insurance or drug consultations, putting it in terms that the patient can understand really seems to help the patients.

What are Some Examples of Writing in the Pharmacy?

Alexa doesn’t write big, fancy documents or proposals. Rather, she tends to write a lot of notes, to both coworkers and patients. A common form of written communication in the pharmacy is from “transfer prescriptions when patients come from different pharmacies.” For example, when Walgreen’s is the only pharmacy in the Ruston area that currently has a certain type of medication in stock, the other pharmacies will call to transfer their prescriptions to her store. However, the majority of her written communication is done electronically, such as completing orders and answering emails and faxes concerning certain patients or prescriptions.

 

What Happens When There is a Lack of Communication?

A lack of communication can occur in several different aspects in the pharmacy. They are all detrimental and can “create chaos.” No matter where there is a lack of communication in the pharmacy, it results in the employees redoing their work and applying extra effort to right the wrongs. When there is a lack of communication with patients, it’s usually from the lack of explanation of hard-to-understand topics or the employees being dismissive to details concerning patients. This usually results in the patients get frustrated. When there is a lack of communication with prescribers, patients may end up with the wrong medication or the wrong dosage of medication. This could ultimately not help their problem, worsen their problem, or seriously threaten their life. A lack of communication with coworkers can lead to misleading information to patients. For example, wait time is a common area of miscommunication in the pharmacy. Sometimes technicians fail to communicate that a customer is waiting in the store for their medication and the patient will get impatient if it takes longer than the promised waiting time.

 

Are There Communication Barriers in the Pharmacy?

Just like any workplace, communication barriers exist and create difficulties in the pharmacy as well. Of course, there are the obvious communication barriers, such as language barriers or even how each patient responds differently to how you personally communicate. A major communication barrier in the pharmacy here in Ruston is with the blind customers. Ruston is home to a school for the blind and the students are very interactive within the community. “They can’t read my handwritten notes or even the directions on the pill bottle,” Alexa states. To overcome this barrier, she must use voice recorders for them that are attached to the bottom of the pill bottles, and read out in Alexa’s voice all the details concerning the medication.

Katelyn Dobbins, Guest Blogger

Technical Communication in Healthcare

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All About Brittany Hammond

Brittany Hammond is a Physician Assistant originally from Bossier City, Louisiana. She attended PA school at LSU Health Shreveport, where she has recently graduated, and is now a practicing Physician Assistant. After completing her preceptorship here in Ruston, she decided to join full time at Family First Medicine. She has been employed there for six months. As a Practicing PA, Ms. Hammond sees and cares for patients on a daily basis. She is responsible for listening to their concerns, ordering appropriate diagnostic testing, and giving them the treatment they need in order to get better. Brittany works closely with a Physician she confers with on a daily basis to ensure the best plan of action is being taken for each patient.

The Journey to Become a PA

When asked how she would describe her educational experience, Ms. Hammond replies, “It was honestly life changing. College helped me grow as a person, whereas PA school changed my outlook on life.” She says that she learned that hard work and dedication do pay off, and that trying to balance school work and having a life was one of her greatest challenges. Looking back on the more difficult years of her life, she says she would not change a thing. Every piece of this journey molded her into the woman she is today. .

The Importance of Effective Communication

Brittany states that communication is one of the key aspects of working in the medical field. If the healthcare providers are not communicating effectively, there is a potential danger to the patient. When asked how a lapse in communication could affect the quality of care given, she states, “The quality of care could be affected greatly. If we as healthcare professionals are not communicating well with one another, the patient’s needs could be overlooked, and that is something we never want to see.” Brittany says one thing they do in her office to try and keep everyone on the same page is hold regular staff meetings. “This is our way of making sure our policies and procedures are being adhered to, and that each staff member knows what is expected of them in order to keep our office running smoothly.”

Different Levels of Communication

Ms. Hammond says that there are many different levels of communication in her workplace. She cannot use the same language with a patient that she would use with a colleague. Brittany says it is extremely important to be able to connect with her patients and explain things to them on a level where they can understand. She said she often uses visual aids to accomplish this goal. Another challenge she has faced besides educational barriers are language barriers. She has encountered multiple patients who speak a different language, and therefore must have a translator.

The Importance of Writing in Healthcare

Brittany stressed to me the importance of writing in her work place. She says it is important to write as much as you can about each situation to cover yourself. “Proper documentation leads to better patient care,” she said. Since they use paper charts at her office, writing is that much more important. Ms. Hammond says that everything they do in the office involves writing. From charting notes for office visits, to writing prescriptions and preparing medical records, writing is one of the most time-consuming parts of her job.

Why Listening is a Big Deal

Ms. Hammond also states that being a good listener is an important part of being a healthcare professional. If you are not paying attention to your patient, you could miss something important, and if you are not listening to your staff, office operations will not run smoothly. Brittany says there is always room for improvement in communication, and she will continue to do her part to ensure effective communication in her work place. Continue reading

Effective Communication As A Project Manager

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Photo: Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

Background

Megan Weber is a Project Manager in Oak Harbor, WA for the Military Health System, and is overseeing the implementation of a new electronic health record for the Naval Hospital. She is originally from Cleveland, OH and moved to Washington State back in 1991. She is also a diehard Steeler’s football fan with a large amount of memorabilia in her office.

Educational and Professional Background

Megan also is a Licensed Practical Nurse and graduated from Jane Addams School of Nursing in 1991. After graduation, she worked as a Staff Developer and Trainer for a reputable nursing home for 5 years before switching to dermatology. She also has previous experience as an electronic health record System Administrator and Trainer. She believes that nursing teaches you not only to be patient, but how to adapt to environments and anticipate constant change. Working as a System Administrator and Trainer also helped her with her project management career. She feels that project management is similar because it is constantly changing and it would be difficult to successfully manage a project without burning out or working effectively with others.

Project Manager Duties

Currently, Megan is in charge of coordinating and scheduling staff training for a new electronic health record. She says she is scheduling 422 end users into 1,120 different training sessions. Since this is an important government project, many people high up in the government are closely monitoring the implementation progress. She says that when everyone assigned to those training sessions actually show up to their assigned training classes is a huge win for her. There are many parties involved on this project, and when she starts to see that communication is starting to be misinterpreted, she falls back on scheduling face-to-face team meetings and re-clarification to ensure that everyone is on the same page and is sharing the same information.

Forms of Communication as a Project Manager

Megan utilizes all forms of communication at work such as oral communication and written correspondences. She frequently communicates via phone, texts, emails, and in-person. As a project manager, constant interaction with all parties involved is important in the implementation phase of an electronic health record. She interacts daily with key people such as hospital command leaders, department heads, healthcare providers, nurses, and corpsman. She also communicates frequently with vendors and trainers from the electronic health record company. To ensure that this electronic health record implementation is successful, she must be an effective communicator at work.

Communication Preferences

Communication is Megan’s number one tool. She believes that half of her time spent during the day is through written communication and the other half is through verbal communication. She does not think she would be able to perform the necessary tasks that are expected of her without written communication. Although both are important for her job, she prefers to communicate verbally in face-to-face communication because she feels that less is lost in translation that way.

Communication Behaviors

Project Management can be very stressful, especially when juggling many projects. Megan says that it is important to have a level head at all times to be an effective communicator. If you are a hot head or easily riled, the project could derail rather quickly. She also believes that follow through with assigned tasks is another important behavior in effective communication.

Final Words

Megan says, “Communication is your number one tool. If you want people to take you seriously and respect what you have to say, then proof read all your emails, memos, and text messages before sending them out. Ensure that required attachments have been included before hitting the send button. Keep communications on point and with a purpose. Know your material, and don’t give answers unless you know them. If you aren’t sure, tell them so, but find the right answer and follow-up. Establishing trust keeps the dialog open. Especially in regards to written communication.”

June Amador, Guest Blogger

Written Communication in Billing

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Lisa Downs is a billing manager/clerical manager for two different companies called United Home Health and Trinity Home Health. She has many different job duties, but some of the main ones are that she manages people in a clerical setting, such as receptionists, she manages patients that are seen in the home health setting, checks the patient’s eligibility for home health, and checks to make sure AR claims that are sent out are actually collected.

Daily Communication

She uses communication every day, all day in order to fulfill her daily duties. Communication is a critical, important contribution to her work and making sure that the many different needs are being met in every area. The effectiveness of her communication depends on who the communication is with and what it pertains to, so it is important to use the best form of communication.

E-mail is the Way to Go

E-mail is the form of written communication she uses the most, which helps her communicate to everyone she needs to about anything and everything that is needed and it makes sure people get the information that they need to receive. Most people nowadays actually do more texting as their form of written communication, but she prefers to use e-mail the most. She saves her e-mails and marks them as unread to check back on and make sure if there is action needed and if it was done. She also forwards the e-mails back to each person to ensure that they received it and can document and confirm the dates and times of any necessary actions.

Who to Send E-mails To

She sends out e-mails like a group text, where she adds all parties involved to the e-mail and allows for the conversations to start flowing. This allows it to seem like a conference call, but the communication is all in writing and is almost like your own personal set of notes about everything. For example, if there is a patient with a problem, she sends the e-mail to all involved and follows the conversation to see how the problems are being resolved and then will follow up with everyone to make sure it was resolved.

How to Keep Up

One thing I really found interesting was that she puts specific details about the topic of the e-mail in the subject line, such as the patient’s name that the message is pertaining to or lunch coverages she is managing, so she can go back and easily find all e-mails pertaining to that topic in the future. This helps her bring up all e-mails about the specific topic so she can follow up and make sure everything is being done or continue deciding what needs to be done or evaluated.

Skills Needed for Effectiveness

Some important skills needed for effective written communication are how you word things and paying attention to details. One little word in the wrong form could change the way your message is interpreted, so this is essential when it comes to written communication. The positive aspects to written communication are that you can communicate to everybody all at one time and it is in writing so nothing gets misconstrued. The negative aspects to written communication are that once it is sent, it is sent, and you cannot take it back, so it is important to make sure to check and make sure that is what you are wanting to say and how you want to say it.

Encourage Peers to Use Written Communication

She encourages her peers to use written communication by just simply communicating with them through e-mails and everyone just always uses this form of communicating because it is the simplest, quickest form, especially for a field that are not necessarily always at the same place at the same time. For example, if there was denied insurance coverage on a patient, she would e-mail them to tell them who to reply to and to send a copy to their supervisor and herself.

Natasha Terral, Guest Blogger

Technical Communication in Dialysis

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Sonja Morgan: Clinical Manager of Fresenius Medical

Background

Sonja Morgan is a registered nurse (RN) working in Columbia, Louisiana at Fresenius Medical Center. She has worked for Fresenius Medical for 5 years now, and was most recently promoted to manager. Fresenius is a dialysis company devoted to helping patients whose bodies have lost the ability to control their kidney functions. Her main duties as the clinic manager include writing staff orders, notes to doctors concerning patients, and ensuring that her clinic is running up to par.

What led you to becoming a nurse?

Sonja grew up learning to care for others by tending to her grandparents as they grew older. Her love for helping others came from working as an emergency room technician after high school. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing from Louisiana Tech, her career was just unfolding.

Communicating Effectively

Sonja believes that communication is one of the most important aspects of her field of work. She experiences all forms of communication, mostly written. Sonja says that her day begins with a daily report, which she must produce every morning. She says that this is accomplished using a template that details the goals for employees and herself for the day. She finds this form extremely useful in relaying information to her staff; this holds everyone accountable. She also says that the template makes the process extremely efficient when having to adhere to company policies. Sonja recommends a template for any document updated day to day.

Written Communication at Fresenius Medical

Sonja says that written communication is crucial for her workplace. Any time a patient does not receive documentation of their visit, or it is not on file, it can be claimed that this visit never even occurred. Sonja says that she is comfortable using written communication, mostly because of how often she must communicate within her company. Sonja thoroughly reviews every document she comes in contact with, noticing errors like grammar, punctuation, and conciseness.

Sonja also says that she is responsible for creating monthly quality documents that will be presented to upper management. These documents she creates must be accurate, easy to read and navigate, and follow company policies. To ensure these documents meet the needed requirements, she spends a large amount of time planning, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading her documents. Sonja says she may follow a similar procedure for even emails!

Struggles and Improvements

Keeping communication full proof at any medical clinic can be difficult. When Sonja first became manager of this clinic, she struggled with producing some of the reports that she was required to, mostly due to poor training. Now that she has educated herself on the written communication to be completed, she has begun training others so that she is not the only employee capable. Sonja also says that she used to struggle communicating to patients who did not understand their situation, or speak English well. Sonja says that she has been able to produce training and leadership documents to both her staff and patients. These documents are to help patients understand what is happening in much simpler terms, and can be translated if necessary.

Sonja says that communication in her workplace could be improved in many ways. She believes that a “communication board” in the clinic could be helpful with daily reminders. Sonja also thinks utilizing their wikis (OneDrive via Office365) could be beneficial when communicating through written documents. Sonja also thinks that there is room for improvement to Fresenius Medical’s intranet site. She says that the site has become difficult to use, thanks to hundreds of links.

Words of Advice

Sonja says that communication is the “key to success, regardless of what business, industry, or field an individual may be working in.” Anyone can learn from the experiences Sonja has had, proving how useful good communication can really be, in any field of work.

Justin Kelly, Guest Blogger

Technical Communication in Health Care

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Michelle Schroeder

Manager of Clinical Operations

Michelle is the manager of Clinical Operation at Aurora Health Care for the Greater Milwaukee South Urgent Care Specialist Group. She manages all of the employees at the ten urgent cares in her area. Her position includes: writing budgets for each clinic, approving invoices, assisting in the hiring and firing process, managing the supervision teams at each site and ensuring day to day operations flow appropriately.

What Led Her Here?

Michelle has a Baccalaureate degree in nursing and has held positions as a nurse assistant, a nurse technician, a licensed practical nurse, and a registered nurse, prior to becoming the manager of clinical operations. She has experience in different areas including: rehabilitation, emergency medicine, orthotic and chemo/oncology nursing. Michelle was a charge nurse for a year before she was promoted to supervisor and recently was promoted to management.

Communication in the Workplace

“Communication is an essential part of my position” Michelle stated when asked how communication is incorporated into her job. She has one hundred and forty eight direct employees. For her to ensure that operations are smooth and changes are initiated in a timely manner she is required to use many different forms of communication. These forms include: verbal, written and electronic communications.

Communication Challenges

Michelle finds electronic forms of communication the hardest in her line of work. She says “Whether it’s via email or a lync message, written communications lack tone and body language that is otherwise present in verbal interactions with each other.” Depending on the mood of the recipient, or how the writer worded something, an entirely different message can be conveyed. Due to this, all of Michelle’s direct employees take annual training on electronic etiquette.

Cross-Cultural Communication

In health care, you are required to provide patients with care in their primary language. Michelle’s team utilizes interpreter services to be able to provide this service to their patients if the provider is unable to communicate with them in their primary language. The contracts with interpreter services are expensive and for that reason, it’s a great help to be fluent in another language.

Technical Communication

For documentation purposes written communication is essential. For any plan of care you develop you have to make a progress note or enter some form of documentation. Michelle states that, “The golden rule in healthcare is that if you didn’t document it, you didn’t do it.” Documentation needs to be precise, accurate and factual. It must formulate a clear picture of what is going on with the patient to organize treatment modifications.

Working with the health care team to create an accurate report is also essential. Every ancillary department works with the provider directing care to build a report of what is going on with the patient. It is necessary that communication is accurate and timely so true results are added to the chart.

Active listening is another vital form of communication in the healthcare field. Working for an urgent care, there is no schedule or warning on what will walk through the door next. It is essential for our staff to actively listen to patient complaints to be able to determine what the problem is quickly. Additionally, we often deal with emergent situations that require the team to work together under high stress situations.

Comfort in Communication

Michelle says she is comfortable with technical communication in her role. “Whether it’s pulling reports from medication records, or creating a presentation on building a new site, I rely on my team to get me accurate information to present and then do I my best to convey the information in a way that’s meaningful and easy to understand to stakeholders.”

I will leave you with this meaningful quote from Michelle we all need to hear:

“In my job, success relies on being able to communicate with others in a meaningful way.” Michele Schroeder

 

Kailey Nash, Guest Blogger