By: Farah Aziz, Training Officer, 2015-2016
One cannot stress the importance of effective communication for the EMT. In the rapid process of stabilizing a patient’s condition before potential transfer to higher-level care, EMTs simultaneously engage in constant verbal and nonverbal exchanges with patients, bystanders and any other officials involved in the call scene. Talk about multitasking! In all seriousness though, effective communication establishes a positive working relationship between patient and health care provider. Reaching a certain comfort level helps build trust that in turn, increases the patient’s receptivity to the EMT’s treatment options and suggestions for transport, raises the likelihood of the patient disclosing important details during history taking that they would otherwise hide and overall helps lower the stress and anxiety that the patient may be experiencing during the call itself.
Just like any other skill sets, there are always ways we could improve how we connect with our patients regardless of how long we spend on scene with them. This ensures that the folks we see feel best taken care of and reassured in the process of being assessed, treated, and potentially transported. Here are a few simple tips and reminders for improving communication:
1. Eye contact – A seemingly small but critical way to immediately make the patient feel prioritized and cared for. This indicates the EMT’s undivided attention and while this does not entail a staring contest, it does mean intermittently looking up from other tasks such as writing PCR notes and taking vitals to ensure this attention is being provided.
2. Restatement- Briefly summarizing and repeating the complaint back to the patient not only helps the EMT process the given information but also allows the patient to clarify the complaint as well as add any missing and pertinent details. This also assures the patient that the EMT was actually listening and not mentally imagining when they can go back to bed after the call.
3. Verbalizing- Simple and consistent explanation of what interventions are being taken, possible explanations for their emergency, reasons for why transport may be recommended and other factual information helps the patient understand what is happening and thereby feel effectively assisted.
Granted, not all patients are the most responsive, cooperative and pleasant to deal with. Regardless, the ways we interact with all of our patients can help the way we gather information, organize our plan of action, and ultimately establish a positive way of showing we care about their health and well-being.