Communication skills are very important for pharmacists and for pharmacy interns as well because they have to effectively communicate with other healthcare providers and patients who have different cultural backgrounds, different educational degrees, different economic classes, and different languages. There are two types of communications such as verbal communication and nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication can speak more words. Majority of our understanding of a message come from the nonverbal communication. Communication can be learnt or advanced if we put a lot of effort in it. The nonverbal communication aspects that I am going to always remain aware of and adjust as needed when I engage in health care interactions are the personal space, the facial expression, the body movement, the eye contact, and the posture.
Personal space: The distance between me and patients during conversation is important because it can the outcome of the conversation. I should not be too far or too close to my patients because they will probable feel I am not comfortable with them or I cause them feel uncomfortable. As a result, the conversation will not be engaged, and the counseling will not go well. I will stay in conversational space.
Facial expression: Face is often the first part of your body that people look at. If your face is frown and unwelcoming, patients will not want to speak with you. Then you will miss the opportunity to provide them counseling. As a result, they might not be able to receive the best healthcare that they need. Patients can tell if your smiles are fake or not. I will train myself to smile even the patients’ thoughts or concerns are boring or unrealistic. I will keep smiling all the time, so I can make patients feel welcomed to speak with. The facial expressions will also change according to the patients’ stories or concerns.
Body movement: Open motions are very positive for communication, and they encourage patients to have open communication with you. I will have open motions like keeping my arms open and my legs. I will avoid crossing my arms and my legs. I think the patients will be more likely to share their thoughts and their concerns if I have open motions toward them. When I know about their concerns, I will be able to provide them correct feedbacks to help them with their concerns regarding their medications and their health outcomes.
Eye contact: At conversations, your eyes can indicate your genuineness, sincerity, honesty, integrity and comfort. That is why good eye contact is very important while speaking with patients. I will maintain eye contact when I speak with patients and when patients speak to me. I will try to avoid rolling my eyes when I am thinking. Rolling my eyes when I am think used to cause me a problem. The patient thought and complained that I rolled an eye on her. I will also avoid doing multitasks because the patients can tell if I am distracted and I am on hurry through my eyes.
Posture: The way how you sit or stand can give positive or negative impression. The close postures can give impression of detachment, unpleasantness, and disinterest while open postures show friendly and good attitudes. As a pharmacy intern or a pharmacist, I will be more careful with my posture and maintain my open posture which tell patients that I am in interest in them and a readiness to listen to them. I will always stand up straight, my feet will be spread wide, and my palms will be facing outward. When I sit, I will sit up straight with my head raised and keep my chest and abdomen exposed.
Case Scenario: Communication with Geriatric 72-year-old Patient
Communication with senior population especially geriatric patients is a challenge because of their medical complexity, their functional impairments, their health conditions, and their living environments.1 To communicate with and understand this population, in addition to the five aspects of nonverbal communication explained above, I will also adjust my tone, my speaking rate, my hands, and my gestures to create a psychological environment. I will stand fairly close to them, maintain eye contact, and lean to the patients. If the patients have hearing impairment, I project my voice and speak more clearly and slowly accomplished with understandable body language. I will patiently wait for the patients to tell their story in their own time. I will slightly lean to them when they speak in order to demonstrate that I am interested in their story and actively listening to them. My hands will comfortably be at my sides, or my hands will be brought together in my lap when I sit. My facial expressions will show accordingly to their story. I will try to put myself in the patient’s position so I can understand their feeling and show them right and positive nonverbal communication.
1. Williams, B. and Pacala, J. (2018). Communicating with Geriatric Patients | POGOe – Portal of Geriatrics Online Education. online Pogoe.org. Available at: https://www.pogoe.org/productid/20864 Accessed 24 Aug. 2018.