Book Reflection


BeforeI started my course in health sciences, I always harbored the notionthat the most important skill for any medical practitioner isproficiency in different scopes of health sciences. I used to thinkthat for a medical practitioner, the quality of patient care is onlydependent on the depth of medical knowledge. Recently, I came acrossa book that completely changed my perception about communicationskills and how they affect the quality of patient care.Intrinsically, this essay is a reflection based upon the bookCommunication:Core Interpersonal Skills for Health Professionals (2ndEd.), written by Gjyn O’Toogle. The book was published byChatswood, N.S.W. Elsevier Australia, in 2012. It is an imprint ofChatswood N.S.W.: Churchill Livingstone, 2008. This 369 page text wascopyrighted by the author in 2012. The book is roughly 25 centimetersin breadth. Fitting in the educational genre, the book familiarizeshealth sciences scholars to the different interpersonal communicationskills that are often employed within health care settings toestablish relationships with fellow professionals, clients, andimprove therapeutic outcomes. The book sheds light on the developmentof self-awareness and the skills that are necessary for use in healthsettings. By and large, this book is a compilation of informationthat will enable health sciences scholars to reflect on theirexperiences and practice using the skills it highlights. I canconfidently affirm that this book has expanded my perception of thebasic skills that are essential for the delivery of quality patientcare. Per se, the book proves that communication skills are importantcomponents in the delivery of quality patient care.

Ihave chosen to reflect on this particular book for the reason thatits items of discussion are appropriate to me as a training healthprofessional. For a long time, I have always envisaged thatproficiency in medical skills is the only thing that underwrites thedelivery of quality patient care. Just like everybody else, Iunderrated the influence of effective communication skills in ahealth care scenario and how it affects the delivery of patientcare. I concur with the ideas presented in the book since they havepersuaded me to accepting as true, the fact that effectivecommunication does expedite the delivery of quality patient care.Equipped with this knowledge, I can positively affirm that I am in abetter position to improve the quality of patient care in practiceby effectively communicating with my patients and colleagues. In ahealth scenario, the book explicitly defines communication as theprocess of using mutually understood medical signs and symbols toconvey intended meaning from one health professional to another andfrom a health professional to a patient or client. Communication is atwo-way process of reaching mutual understanding in which twoindividuals not only share information, but also create and sharemeaning.

Iconcur with the book’s idea that there are three main types offunctional communication means in a health care scenario: verbal,non-verbal, and written. Verbal communication is the ability of ahealth professional to orally communicate and present ideas clearlyand audibly in an understood language. On the other hand, non-verbalcommunication is the ability of a health professional to create andshare meaning without the use of conventional labels. Employing thisapproach to communicating, health professional use indicators like(but not limited to) body language, facial expressions, and tone ofvoice. Written communication, as the name suggests, is the ability ofa health professional to effectively create and share meaning inwriting. I am in accord that in a typical health scenario, a medicalprofessional would employ an assortment of all these communicationmeans to pass across meaningful messages to his/her patient or toanother medical specialist. From my understanding of the concepts ofthe book, it is not virtually possible for a health practitioner toimprove the care of a patient without mutual understanding achievedthrough the process of effective communication.

Afterreading the book, I now comprehend why effective communication is anindispensable part of creating and upholding good physician-colleagueand physician-patient associations. I have learned that for a healthexpert to be proficient in the process of creating and sharingmeaning, he/she has to possess operative communication skills. Theseproficiencies help them to communicate efficiently with theirpatients so as to create a mutual understanding. The book identifiesoral communication as the most used line of communication forhealthcare professionals. In accordance to the concepts in the book,I agree that oral communication is the most used line ofcommunication in any physician-patient and physician-physicianrelationship. I concur with this conception because in a typicalhealth care scenario, it is medical experts that orally welcome andquery the health care needs of patients. It is spot-on that medicalspecialists orally explain diagnosis, describe investigationprocedures, and clarify treatment protocols. By word of mouth,medical experts involve their clients in decision-making. You canalso affirm that health care professionals use oral communication toseek informed consent on invasive procedures, give instructions ondischarge, deal with anxious patients, and give medical advice.Thanks to the book, I have learned that in a normal health carescenario oral communication is customarily preferred because it isthe central axis along which all the other forms of communication arebuilt upon. I have been able to discern that the effectiveness oforal communication significantly improves the quality of patient carebecause of the attainment of a higher ground of mutual understanding.

Youmight be wondering: “So why is listening so important for a medicalpractitioner in a health care scenario?” Let me answer yourquestion by shedding light on a chunk of what I learned from thebook. Part of what I picked from the book is: if someone listens toanother one with full attention, commitment, conviction, and support,the speaker feels significant, affirmed, and has a sense of his/hervalue. Applying this concept in a health care scenario, when patientsare recognized and accepted for who they are, they feel free toexpress their feelings more deeply and elaborately. In his/herprofessional capacity, a health specialist is like the patient’ssoundboard. It is the contractual obligation of health professionalsto listen to their patients validating the necessity of possessinggood listening skills. These skills are important because of variousreasons.

Fromthe book, I learned that listening skills can help improve a healthpractitioner’s diagnosis of a patient’s medical predicaments. Ahealth professional is in a better position to diagnose a patient whoexplicitly expresses his/her feelings because he/she feelsappreciated. Thus, the book demonstrates that a health practitionercan understand better, the psychosocial problems of a patient whenhe/she listens attentively. I am of the opinion that this is factualbecause listening significantly improves the quality of patient caresince “underlying” and “unnoticed” complications can bediagnosed and managed all made feasible by operative listening.Second, I agree that listening skills improve communication betweenhealth professionals themselves. As we all know, medicalpractitioners often share medical information in the form of formalor informal consultations. It is true that proactive listening skillsencourage deeper understanding of medical information, whichcertainly improves the process and efficiency of transmittinginformation between medical professionals. The third importance ofeffective listening skills is that it encourages patient compliance.I positively correspond to this concept. I know for a fact that whena patient actively listens to a medical specialist’s instructionson dosage, he/she has higher odds of complying compared with apatient who has pitiable listening skills. You might be asking whatskills are good listening skills. Well, according to the book, thereare five healthy listening skills: making eye contact with a patient,avoiding interruptions mid-talk, being respectful, eliminatingdistractions, and paying attention to vocal accents (O’Toogle,2012).

Iagree with the book’s notion that listening also has noteworthybarriers just like any other line of communication. We are all awarethat in classic health scenarios, there are listening factors thatmay occasion a lack of mutual understanding between health expertsand their patients. Trying to listen to more than one conversation ata time is one of the greatest barriers to effective listening.Distractions like having the radio or television on while listeningto a patient talk about his/her problems harbors physicians’process of effective listening. To overcome this, I agree with thebook’s idea that health professionals are expected to talk topatients in quiet and serene environments that can allow fruitfultalking and listening. It is also true that prejudice is yet anotherbarrier to effective listening. As a health practitioner, I can bebiased or have preconceived notions against certain races, religions,ages, or accents. Therefore, in the event of consultation by anot-so-preferred race, I can understand what the patient is sayingbut will not place myself in his/her shoes. Having a lot on mind canalso make a health practitioner fail to listen to what a patient issaying. A health practitioner’s previous experiences with certainindividuals might also cause ineffective listening. For instance, ifI have ever been bullied by an obese individual, I might choose notto listen to the problems of an overweight patient because of thechildhood experience.

Youcan endorse the fact that with the rapid rate of technologicaladvancement, the internet has become one of the central features inmost, if not all, professions. Certainly, the book proves that themedical field has not been left out of this emerging crusade. Moreso, the book notes that the development of social media has provideda platform through which medical professionals can communicate. It istrue that social media promotes timely communication between healthpractitioners and their patients. Also, I concur with the book’sidea that social media provides health professionals with a way toshare medical data and express their feelings. Without a sense ofcaution, however, the potential benefits of social media can bewatered down in the case of the disclosure of personal patientinformation by health professionals. This explains why many healthfacilities, as we all discern, have policies governing the usage ofwebsites and social media to share information between healthpractitioners and patients. Federal law reinforces further, patientconfidentiality through the Health Insurance Portability andAccountability Act (HIPAA). The regulations stipulated by HIPAA areintended to protect patient privacy and confidentiality by outlininghow personal medical data can be shared, by whom, and under whatconditions (O’Toogle, 2012). Admittedly, a breach of patientconfidentiality can occur in the event that a health professional,either intentionally or unintentionally, leaks private patientinformation (without consent) through social media sites likeFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Instagram, or YouTube. In thecase of a breach of patient confidentiality and privacy, the lawprovides avenues through which patients can seek for compensation forthe damages caused by the exposure of confidential medicalinformation.

Self-awarenessis another competence I can say I picked from this book.Self-awareness is an individual’s tendency to pay attention to hisor her own attitudes, emotions, and behaviors in response to specificsituations. In a health care setting, self-awareness is the abilityof a medical specialist to gain an insight into how their emotionalmakeup influences the quality of patient care. The society expectshealth practitioners to be well-informed on advances in patient care,and act only within the limits of their proficiency. I concur withthe book’s idea that to meet these societal expectations it isimperative that health professionals asses their own performance andproficiency. I learned from the book that a physician’s wellbeing,fears, physical or mental discomfort may affect the quality of theirpatient’s care. You can endorse the fact that an emotionallyunstable physician’s proficiency to listen, reason, and make soundmedical judgments are greatly diminished which implies a significantdecline in professional performance. Truthfully, the book notes thatit is important that a health practitioner gains an insight intotheir own feelings and attitudes that directly affect their deliveryof patient care. I totally agree with the book’s concept that beingself-aware is important for health care specialists because itenables them to manager their therapeutic relationships for thedelivery of quality patient care.

BeforeI got the opportunity to read Communication:Core Interpersonal Skills for Health Professionals (2ndEd.), written by Gjyn O’Toogle, I had a totally differentperception of the medical profession. Formerly, I used to think thatproficiency in medical skills is the only determinant in the deliveryof quality patient care. However, this book has completely changed mydiscernment. It has proven to me that above and beyond academicproficiency, expertise in communication skills also plays a crucialrole in the delivery of quality patient care. This book has taught methat for a health practitioner to employ medical skills on a patient,he/she has to effectively communicate orally so as to create highergrounds of mutual understanding. The book has also taught me thateffective skills of listening are important in a health care setting.It is through listening that patients can feel appreciated, loved,and therefore, talk explicitly about their problems. Listeningenables physicians diagnose and manage underlying problems, whichdirectly improves the quality of patient care. The book has alsoenlightened me on the effectiveness of social media andself-assessment in the communication process between patients andphysicians. In a nutshell, I can positively affirm that this book hasequipped me with new value-added information that will assist meimprove patient care in practice in future. The book has improved onmy competence because it has demonstrated to me that effectivecommunication has an important role to play in the delivery ofquality health care. Thanks to this book, I am confident that myfuture prospects as a medical professional are electrifying becauseof the crucial information it has inoculated into my knowledge of thepractice of medicine.


O`Toole,G. (2012). Communication:Core interpersonal skills for health professionals(2nd Ed.).Chatswood,NSW : Elsevier Australia.