Did you know that one of the most common complaints about the NHS is poor communication? The NHS trust in the area that I live in, South Warwickshire Foundation Trust, or SWFT, has a great reputation and scores very highly in feedback surveys. At their recent nursing conference they still decided to select ‘communication’ as their main theme. It’s interesting isn’t it, that those who are at the excellent end of the spectrum often choose to learn more. You might think that there is no need, if they are already doing well, why strive for improvement? Well, it is this very attitude of wanting to continually improve that puts them at the top of their profession. The aspect that I most noticed about the group of 200 or so professionals, was that they were totally engaged and had an attitude of wanting to learn more, even though I had the ‘graveyard’ slot immediately after lunch! This is a byproduct of what happens whether there is a culture of continuous improvement in place – people have an expectation of learning and are open to taking on new information. They know that they are not there to be ‘fixed’ because something is broken, they know that their employers value them so highly that they continually invest in their professional development, whether that be clinical training or soft-skills training.
For people who wear uniform, their communication skills are really important, especially when they are in a caring profession because we have an expectation that they should be, well, caring! If we are met with a situation where they are not, it really jars with our preconceived idea of how they should behave. Their appearance is key – we expect them to be smart, clean and tidy. Of course their uniform helps with that, but grooming is incredibly important too – you wouldn’t want to be treated by a nurse that looks a little grubby!
Their uniform already tells us much about who they are – it’s a shorthand to tell us that they are qualified and there to help. They have an opportunity to bring their own personality to bear through their communication style, tone of voice and body language. Nurses probably come under more scrutiny than most. Imagine being a patient in a hospital bed. Once you have read your magazines, eaten a few grapes and done your crossword, what else is there to do but watch the interactions of the staff in the hospital? We find people infinitely fascinating and they draw our attention to them all the time. We pick up on subtle clues from the unspoken word – our body language gives so many clues to what is going on and how we feel. Are we stressed, are we calm and have everything under control? Patients observing these interactions between health professionals will read all kinds of information from them and they will pick up on the smallest changes in body language – we are programmed and attuned to do this. Remember our flight or fight response that I have spoken about in my earlier blog ‘Are you being Authentic?’
The nursing profession is the ultimate in customer service and we do have high expectations. In all the interactions I have ever had with our local NHS nurses, they have all been excellent and am very thankful for that!
Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA – Managing Director, First Impressions
Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI) She is also Director for Regional Support of FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.
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