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Effective Communication With Service Users
Effective communication with the service user is key to the role of the health care worker. Service users are often nervous, shy or, because of their condition, may experience difficulty communicating. The health care worker has to find ways around any barriers to data collection. So, the empathetic skills of the worker must be highly developed and adaptable. The health care worker needs a good understanding of different ways to share information. The care worker must also be familiar with any specific communication problems of each client in his care.
Specific Communication Needs
A client may have suffered a head injury, or stroke, resulting in dysphasia (difficulty in speaking). As a result, she may become frustrated and angry. You might be looking after an injured party who has learning difficulties; this is likely to have an impact on her ability to communicate. Clients may be suffering from confusion, either temporarily because of an acute medical problem, or as a result of dementia. Elderly clients often have some degree of sensory impairment and this also has an impact on communication.
Other Possible Difficulties
A health care worker might be dealing with someone suffering from a mental illness. This may take many forms; perhaps the client is depressed and reluctant to speak, or may be deluded or hallucinating. This makes communication challenging and the care worker needs to learn strategies to improve her sensitivity. Some staff will work in the field of alcohol and drug abuse and need a background in this area, to make them better workers and more effective communicators.
Forms of Communication
Nonverbal communication makes up a huge part of the way people interact, and it is easy to forget the effect eye contact and body language play in dealings with others. Service users quickly pick up on signs of boredom or disapproval. The care worker should be aware of positive open posture positions, and the need to smile and nod and show other signs of active listening. Verbal communication is also important. Be aware that tone of voice, speed of delivery and accent have an impact on how a person is perceived, and whether or not a communication is received.
Importance of Trust
For any communication to be effective the service user must trust the worker. He must be sure that he will be listened to in a nonjudgmental way, and that confidentiality will be maintained. The care worker needs a solid awareness of legislation and regulations on data protection and rules protecting citizens from self-incrimination. Active listening is also crucial, and the care worker should be cautious about interrupting and asking too many questions, particularly at an early stage of the relationship with the service user. However, there are times when the care worker will need to probe for more information. This should be done with sensitivity.
A key component of the care worker's role is to recognize and overcome barriers. Sometimes the barriers are physical, for example a noisy environment, with a lack of privacy. The care worker should address this and ensure there is a suitable place to take the client, or establish one by asking others for some room to do his job. Other barriers include language differences, difficulties with dialects or accents, or psychological barriers like shyness or paranoia. It might be necessary to engage the services of a translator. Check the client's background and familiarize yourself with any specific communication issues.
Noreen Wainwright has been writing since 1997. Her work has appeared in "The Daily Telegraph," "The Guardian," "The Countryman" and "The Lady." She has a Bachelor of Arts in social sciences from Liverpool Polytechnic and a postgraduate law degree from Staffordshire University.