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Effective Communication In Practice
Amanda Bryce
Communication is a two-way process that takes time to develop through finding your own style, practice and a lot of self-reflection, says Amanda Bryce.

Communication is a two-way process that takes time to develop through finding your own style, practice and a lot of self-reflection, says Amanda Bryce.

As a pharmacist for many years, I've found the greatest lessons in communication have come from some unexpected situations. After graduating from pharmacy school, I felt this was something at which I should clearly be a natural. How wrong I was! I don't think any of us can ever say we've mastered it. For me, life needed to teach a few lessons until I truly ‘got’ it.

Amanda Bryce

BUILDING RAPPORT

This can be done by continually showing that you care about everything going on around you or casual chats with your customers. It only takes a few minutes, but finding out what's going on with them, upsetting them or making life difficult can take any future communication to a different level – even over a coffee next door.

DEMONSTRATING EMPATHY

Empathy should come instinctively to most pharmacists. However, working with a pharmacy assistant – let’s call her Angela – helped me see its value. Angela had a few more years’ experience than I did and, although I was her senior, it was her advice that customers sought repeatedly.

She had a wonderful way of listening carefully without judgement and made customers feel that they were the only one that mattered. If appropriate, she would touch, add humour or even give a hug.

Everything I do today is modelled on what Angela showed me – that caring costs nothing, yet is priceless and makes you feel really good about what you're doing.

FEELING RESPECTED AND HEARD

Effective Communication In Practice

When I was only a few years qualified, I was counselling a couple on multiple boxes of pethidine ampoules. A back injury consigned the patient to a wheelchair. Her partner, also primary carer, was listening as I directed my counselling to him. I felt I was doing a great job – discussing all the side effects, secure storage, risk of dependence and tips on administration – when she asked me, “Why are you talking to him when I’m the patient?” I will always be grateful to her for having the courage to tell me what I was doing. I made a point to thereafter engage the patient, irrespective of their age, cognition or ability.

BEING AUTHENTIC

A pivotal moment in how my communication with patients changed was the Flinders Model of Care workshop, which compels you to find what’s important for the patient. Any interaction we have should be a conversation, not a transaction. Irrespective of what we're trying to say we should always be authentic.

I decided to try the skills I learnt at a complex Home Medicine Review. An 85-year-old national treasure welcomed me into her modest unit and instead of becoming fixated on her comorbidities, I asked her simply, “Tell me what is worrying you most about your health at the moment?”

She looked at me sincerely and said, “Jigsaws. I can't do jigsaws because my eyes are so watery.”

She just needed a simple lubricant eye drop and really couldn’t have cared less about any drug interaction I’d have discovered that day at her dining table.