Mindful Communication

Anna Collins, Lead Nurse, Outpatients, South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre

Since starting the Inspire Improvement Programme I have been on a journey which has opened my eyes to how people’s behaviours, both positive and negative, can impact on the way I work, the way other people work and how this in turn impacts individuals, teams and the care we give to our patients. This is important because workplace cultures are most simply put ‘the way we do things round here’ (Drennan, 1992 quoted in Creating Caring Cultures).

I believe that the way we communicate with each other can be a catalyst for both positive and negative behaviours as we respond to the communication style being used. I have been on the receiving end of verbal communication where I feel I have been ‘dressed down’ in a public environment, felt unsupported by senior colleagues when challenging myself to take on new skills and been sent email communication that has left me feeling insignificant and not valued. There is evidence to suggest that ‘communication among healthcare team members influences the quality of working relationships, job satisfaction and profoundly impacts patient safety’ (Institute of Healthcare Communication, 2011). My reflections on how individuals and organisations communicate have had a significant impact on me, on how I want to communicate with others and how I want to be communicated with going forward.

The consequence of more mindful communication for me personally is that I feel valued, supported and respected and in turn I feel that I am able to role model good communication. I am able to give better, person-centred care to my team and to my patients. I am wasting less time reflecting on negative communication and in turn being more productive. I can learn from these interactions and am then able to role model positive communication. I feel that this promotes a positive culture for my team, which will enable us to provide person centred care by creating a culture of mutual respect and support in which staff feel engaged and have high levels of job satisfaction.

The experience I have gained on the Inspire Improvement Programme has enabled me to feel more empowered. I have slowly gained the confidence to try and challenge communication styles that I have found upsetting; I have tried to highlight these by providing respectful and kind feedback to individuals regarding communication with some mixed results. We have been working together as a team and we have introduced the concept of giving and receiving feedback, initially by developing a trusting relationship by asking the team ‘what it is like to work here’ and creating a forum and the time for open and honest discussion. I have also asked the team to participate in providing me with feedback in the form of a 360 appraisal. While I felt a little anxious about this, I found it a valuable and positive tool to gauge my communication and leadership style. I hope that going forward I will, with my team, create a culture in the department where we all feel able to safely give and receive feedback. I hope that by creating an environment in which we role model positive communication will enlighten individuals and avoid the chain reaction that poor communication can set off.

The journey I am taking has allowed me to gain an understanding that I need to grow, listen and understand my environment and others’ values and beliefs. Sometimes I feel that I am ‘swimming against the tide’ however I am hopeful that with the support network of fellows I have made through the programme, we will not only inspire each other but inspire others. I remain optimistic that creating an environment where we can supportively challenge behaviours will create a ripple effect that will improve the care we give to each other and to our patients.

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