Many of us chose the work we do because of a desire to help others. But this intent can sometimes get overlooked midst an overwhelming amount of workplace demands. Here are some tips to help you focus again on the caring part of healthcare.
- Caring for others. Demonstrate caring not just with your words but also by your body language and voice. When meeting in person, use eye contact and posture to show that you are paying attention. When talking by phone, add energy and enthusiasm to your voice. One way I do this is by standing up. Another is by picturing what this conversation is like for the other person on the call.
- Caring about teaching. Good health communication is more than just a recitation of facts. As you teach (be it about what to eat, how to take a medication, or why this test is important), keep in mind that the other person might be hearing this information for the first, and perhaps only, time. Use strategies to help them learn, such as drawing pictures to show an anatomic problem or demonstrating a technique to do at home.
- Caring environment. Make it easy for newcomers to find you. Encourage those in your organization who make decisions about such things to give the building entrance a name that is familiar and makes sense, such as “Patient Entrance,” rather than “Ambulatory Care.” Inside, offer directions that are fairly easy to follow. This could be with color-coded maps or signs that have consistent wording. An example is calling the eating area either a “cafeteria” or the “dining room,” but not use both terms which can be confusing. And when meeting in person, create a caring environment by giving the other person your full attention and not sneaking peeks at your phone, watch, or other device.
- Caring for yourself, too. It can be exhausting to care for others. Find ways to also take care of yourself, especially in non-work hours. This could be by having lunch with a friend, spending quiet time alone, or doing hobbies you enjoy. By taking time to care for yourself, you’ll be more ready for the important work of caring for others.
Helen Osborne writes about these topics plus many more in her award-winning, best-selling book, Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition (updated 2018).