In every field, professionals need to have good communication skills. Someone who can communicate with others effectively will be able to create and maintain valuable connections. Good communication skills will also increase their likelihood of advancing in their chosen field. One of the most critical communication skills is active listening. This is especially important in the medical field.
Active listening refers to the ability to carefully understand another person’s words by looking at both verbal and non-verbal cues. Active listening also involves providing appropriate feedback.
Medical professionals shouldn’t just “hear” what their patients are saying. They must master and practice active listening all the time to provide better assistance to patients and their family members.
Importance of Active Listening
Building rapport is essential in any industry. Consider the field of sales. Professionals must build rapport with prospects. This rapport will encourage these prospects to trust marketers and provide important information that they can use in implementing a target market segment strategy.
In the same way, medical practitioners must master active listening to build sound rapport with patients and gain their trust. This will help practitioners administer medical assistance more effectively.
Improve Patient Outcomes
Active listening can also lead to better healthcare outcomes. When patients trust their nurses and doctors, these patients are more likely to stick to the medical regimen. The trust built by active listening can also encourage patients to show up in their medical appointments.
Active Listening Strategies
In any conversation, it’s easy to get distracted by background noise and technology. Also, globally, a person’s attention span is narrowing more and more. Distractions and a short attention span can get in the way of communication between a medical practitioner and a patient. That said, active listening is a skill that medical practitioners need to master.
Below are some active listening strategies that medical practitioners can use when dealing with patients:
Maintain Eye Contact
Patients may need visual confirmation that you’re listening to them actively. So it’s important to maintain eye contact with patients since it shows that you’re paying attention to them. Of course, you don’t have to look at your patients during the entire conversation. If done excessively, eye contact can be intimidating, especially for introverted patients.
Instead, you can use the 50/70 rule. Maintain eye contact 50 percent of the time while you talk to your patients and 70 percent when you listen to them.
Use Non-verbal Cues
Using non-verbal cues is essential to communicate with others effectively. Eye contact is an example of non-verbal cues. But there are many others you can also use when communicating with patients. One of the basic things you can do to respond and show that you’re listening is to nod in response to your patients’ statements. The nods can signal that you get what the other person is saying. You can also smile when a patient shares something good.
Your posture can also show whether you’re listening attentively. When sitting down during a conversation, consider leaning slightly towards the patient. It can show that you’re making an effort to hear them better. There are also non-verbal cues that you need to avoid. First, avoid fidgeting as it can distract you and your patient. If you’re going to look away from your patient, don’t do it abruptly. Your patient may misunderstand and think that you’re not interested in what they’re saying.
Paraphrase Patients’ Statements
Another way to demonstrate active listening is to paraphrase patients’ statements. After a patient explains their condition or other concerns, you can briefly repeat what they said in your own words and then ask them if your understanding is correct.
For example, a female patient visits her family doctor to report discomfort around the chest area after drinking coffee and experiencing heartburn. The patient narrates her entire day as instructed by the doctor. In this situation, the family doctor can paraphrase the patient’s narration by identifying key points from their story. They may repeat what the female patient did just moments before feeling chest pain and heartburn. Then the doctor will ask the patient if what they said is correct.
You don’t have to do this during the entire conversation, though. Doing it sparingly can definitely help you demonstrate to the other person that you are paying attention to what they’re saying and understand their concerns.
In 2021, only 20 percent of Americans trust their medical providers a “great deal,” down from 22 percent in 2020. Becoming active listeners can help medical practitioners build better relationships with their patients and become more trustworthy.