The Multiple Voices of Communication in Healthcare

Authored by: Margaret F. Clayton , Pearman D. Parker , Lee Ellington

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367488956
eBook ISBN: 9781003043379
Adobe ISBN:


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Optimal healthcare delivery requires strong patient- and family-centered communication skills and an appreciation of varied professional and staff roles across the healthcare system. Providers who communicate with patients and their families include nurses, advanced practice nurses, nurse scientists and certified nurse aides, physicians and physician assistants, chaplains and spiritual healers, social workers, therapists (recreational, occupational, speech, physical), genetic counselors, pharmacists, dieticians, and specialty teams (dialysis, radiation, dental, optometry). Others who interact with patients and their families within the healthcare system include housekeeping staff and volunteers. All contribute to addressing individualized concerns of patients and families, providing multiple health communication research opportunities. In addition to being influenced by role, communication during healthcare encounters is also context dependent, in that different communication skills are required based on care setting (provision of telehealth, end-of-life care, community-based care, or acute and hospital-based care). Although most providers are comfortable discussing their own specialty and/or professional knowledge, many do not feel comfortable stepping outside their own expertise by, for example, engaging in spiritual discussions or conveying genetic risk. One solution may be to provide interprofessional education to increase awareness of team roles, resulting in greater collaboration among healthcare team members and ultimately benefitting patients and families.

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