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Jennifer George
Communication is Care
Communication in healthcare long-remains one of the top reasons for patient complaints in the healthcare system (Reader et al., 2014). While health education programs prepare healthcare providers for technical competency, not all focus on developing our emotional intelligence and human compassion. Communication is Care: 9 Empowering Strategies to Guide Patient Healing is a practical guide to educate healthcare providers on how to strengthen their communication skills and help their patients achieve their highest level of function and independence. It was written to provoke healthcare providers to consider the intangible of communication as not a soft skill, but a psychological force and core skill in the delivery of high quality healthcare. In 2007, when I became a Physiotherapist and a caregiver to my chronically ill father, I experienced both sides of the healthcare system and saw that there was a gap in communication. Negative interactions with healthcare providers proved to be stressful and impacted my dad’s healing, while interactions that were compassionately focused always offered peace of mind - even when the news was hard to hear. And so, I thought to myself: whether the news is positive or negative, what if all communication could be positive? I imagined the mass impact this could have on patient healing and once I started implementing these 9 strategies into my own practice, my patient outcomes began to soar as did fulfillment with my career.
BookView Review

In this intimate, poignant, and remarkably powerful book, George has written a must-read manifesto for every clinician who wants to make a positive difference in their patients’ lives. George, who found her calling of becoming a physiotherapist after witnessing her father’s long-term struggles as a critical-care patient, shows how patients in long-term hospital care depend on the support and dignity that health care providers offer and how empathy and clear communication can go a long way in nurturing a successful patient-provider relationship. George offers nine strategies to help with establishing better communication skills (defining your purpose, practice with compassion and empathy, integrity, empowering patients to be their own advocates among others), and her affective narrative and psychological perceptions keep the pages turning. What makes George’s story shine are the honest, touching insights that come from her own personal experience as the family member of a patient. For health care providers of all levels, this groundbreaking guide lays the foundation to establish a strong communication skill, leading patients to their highest level of recovery function and independence. Filled with smart insights and engaging stories and written with elegant grace, this book champions the urgency of compassion.

The Miramichi Reader

Jennifer George is a physiotherapist and was a primary caregiver for more than 10 years. In that time, she has encountered many situations in which good communication has resulted in better outcomes for her patients. As the primary caregiver for her father, she has been on both sides of the healthcare situation and has created Communication is Care to assist other healthcare providers in their own practice.

Ms. George has come up with nine strategies:

  1. Define and align your purpose
  2. Practise with compassion and sympathy
  3. Listen presently and completely
  4. Guide from a place of integrity
  5. Empower patients to be their own advocates
  6. Focus on solutions, not barriers
  7. Create a safe therapeutic environment
  8. Prevent unnecessary conflict
  9. Reflect and grow with impact

As a healthcare provider myself with over 35 years of experience, I can vouch for many of the strategies she writes about. In particular, #7: Creating a Safe Therapeutic Environment.

In an outpatient setting, some patients may grow anxious waiting to be called into the doctors office. They may also feel like they are one of many who need care and are uncertain of how you can help and understand them out of the dozens of patients you met with today. They may feel that you do not have enough time. Upon interacting with them, you may notice they are anxious or rushed in sharing their concerns. In situations such as these, make it a point to appear calm and unrushed. Your patients will mirror your own mannerisms. If you are high strung and feel pressed, you might provoke that in your patient, who is likely already anxious about their issues. This is not the type of environment that facilitates focused healing and recovery. Yet, if you take the time to smile, sit down at your patients' level, embody a safe space for discussion, and do not look at your watch or the clock, you will create an atmosphere that is peaceful and unrestricted by outside barriers.

This advice works very well for me as an MRI technologist. My patients (particularly first-timers) are quite nervous about having an MRI, especially after hearing “horror stories” from friends and family. So I find that a calm demeanour puts them at ease and many thank me afterward for my patience with them. It makes all the difference between a good exam or one that doesn’t happen, which doesn’t benefit the patient at all.

As I read through Ms. George’s book, I was surprised to learn that she is an introvert. I thought of her as more of an extrovert, but her passion for her patients that drives her, not a need for constant stimulation.

To me, it always seemed counterintuitive - how am I able to create a strong therapuetic connection with my patients when the thought of interaction in its most basic form can make me feel uneasy? The creation of this book is a complete, shared self-reflection. I have always said that "I am an introvert with an extroverted love for humanity." I have come to find that where my introversion excels is in leading my patients to solutions to improve their function, health, and well-being.

Well said, Ms. George! I can highly recommend Communication is Care to any in the healthcare profession, whether you spend a few minutes with a patient or an hour or two. We all understand the need for good communication, but often don’t know how to effectively implement it in our daily lives. Communication is not a part of most health care curriculums – I know it wasn’t when I was in training. I learned patient skills primarily by watching the effectiveness of others as well as those times when a patient would just shut down when they weren’t being understood by a technologist. The nine strategies in Communication is Care should be a required part of any healthcare training institution.