The 5 leadership soft skills to master for healthcare professionals.

Healthcare professionals are highly skilled individuals with deep scientific knowledge in their respective fields. Science is critical to be able to perform the role of managing patients. However, delivering good patient care also requires a great deal of soft skills to be truly effective. Here are 5 soft skills that every healthcare professional will benefit from mastering in their clinical practice.

COMMUNICATION

Being able to convey complex scientific information to a lay person accurately, clearly, and without alarming the patient requires skill. Such skills are hardly taught in medical school or during the early years of clinical service. Yet how well you communicate with your patients determines how patients perceive how ‘good’ you are as a doctor. Regardless of your knowledge, diagnostic skills and treatment, how you leave the patient feeling after the consultation matters. The patient experience.

Some doctors are natural at it while others may need to find their style with practice. There are many proven techniques for effective communication and crucial conversations that may be useful here. Simple changes such as remembering to pause in between your explanations, drawing a picture to illustrate your explanation or providing reading material that the patient can take are all great ways to try in cultivating this skill.

LISTENING

Being able to communicate a clear and simple message is not sufficient in being a good doctor. Listening skills are critical to practice. History taking is the starting point of patient care and it requires patience. It is about listening to everything the patient has to say and filtering facts for diagnosis and documentation. Listening here goes beyond hearing what the patient says verbally. It includes reading body language, facial expressions, hesitation, and reactions with advanced skill to interpret non-verbal cues from the patient.

Ask the right questions and have a conversation rather than an interview. This also matters in ensuring these cues are picked up from the patient. Doctors without realizing may get too focused on just asking the necessary questions and writing down findings without even looking at the patient. This will deter the patient from talking freely omitting critical information that may be necessary for management of the patient. Having a conversation and then documenting concisely actually does not take much more time. In fact it only improves the experience and patient doctor relationship overall. The patient leaves the room feeling heard and that makes a difference in the quality-of-care delivery.

COLLABORATION

Teamwork is the essential to good patient care. A doctor relies on the expertise of nurses, paramedics, and numerous other healthcare professionals to serve the best care to each patient every day. Hospitals with an established culture of collaboration among healthcare teams perform better in achieving patient outcomes than others.

Many take collaboration for granted especially since healthcare professionals work very long hours, teams keep changing and often senior leadership does not prioritize nurturing the culture of collaboration in the team. Collaboration is a responsibility of each member of the team. It starts with inclusivity in the decision-making process and taking joint accountability for the care delivery of each patient. Not only does this ensure better patient outcomes but it also drastically improves the working environment for healthcare professionals in the team and efficiency of care delivery.

DECISION MAKING

A doctor needs good analytical skills to arrive at a diagnosis and make decisions for the patient. This requires methodological thinking, elimination of possibilities, corroboration of information across different data sets as well as getting input from other healthcare professionals where necessary.

Doctors repeat this with every patient every day and throughout the duration of management of each patient. Simple methods like keeping documentation relevant and concise, documenting the differential diagnosis that came to mind when you examined the patient and staying organised to follow up on test results are all part of efficiency towards arriving at the right diagnosis.

A common error in decision making is assuming information, skipping steps in the examination of the patient or jumping to conclusions because the presentation seems rather common. This can be dangerous in a rush to get to a diagnosis and requires discipline to not overlook or assume to ensure you make the right decisions tailored for each patient every time.

CURIOSITY

Last but not least is curiosity. One would assume there is not much room for curiosity in the world of medicine where facts determine the diagnosis and treatment is standardized for most illnesses. However, there is a lot that can be learnt from disease presentations across other parts of the world, new treatments and the experience of others in treating the same diseases for the patients.

A doctor should always stay a curious researcher at heart. This is because science evolves so rapidly with new technology, breakthroughs and even evolution of disease presentations. It becomes impossible to keep treating patients the same way for decades or even just years. A doctor should continue reading, learning, and connecting with their peers to stay up to date to give patients the most current care available.

These 5 simple traits can transform a healthcare professionals’ career but it is easier said than done. Being a good doctor is not just about being right all the time. It is also about how you make the patient feel and motivate them towards better health. So keep learning and developing yourself not only on scientific knowledge but soft skills as well to do your best for your patients.  


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