Communication in Health and Social Care Organizations
Great Britain is a multicultural country. A variety of nationalities live in one place and social workers and doctors need to understand the peculiarities about the communication with minorities. Cultural and religious diversity of the United Kingdom can be definitely called a continuous challenge for Health and Social Care organizations.
Religious and cultural biases create many difficulties for Social Care personnel. The representatives of Christian, Muslim, Hindu and other religions live nearby and it is difficult for doctors and social workers to learn all the details about each religion. This lack of knowledge might lead to strange effects like insults and negative reaction to the treatment and help. According to the information by The Telegraph, East London is one of the most diverse places in Britain from the cultural perspective.
“After Christians, the biggest faith group is Muslim, with 1.6 million adherents concentrated in Birmingham, Bradford and London. Pakistani Muslims make up the largest non-white ethno-religious group in Britain with an estimated population of almost 700,000. The Jewish population of 267,000 is heavily clustered in Salford and north London, particularly Barnet, while Hindus make up a majority of the population in parts of Leicester” (Johnston 2013).
Communication is the essential thing in providing health and social care. It helps to avoid possible mistakes; it reduces the level of anxiety of the patients and allows each side to know what is expected from them. Different religious and cultural background is not the only problem health and social care workers face in the communication process. They also have to change the way they give information to patients. For example, elderly people who have problems with hearing need listen to the information on a higher pitch than middle-aged people. Children can not understand difficult terms and long speech, so it is also necessary to filter the given information.
Health and social care workers use different techniques of communication to achieve particular purposes. For example, among the most important ones are verbal, non verbal communication, listening, writing, counseling, and record keeping. An ability to listen to the patient is crucial in the work of social care personnel. It allows getting detailed information from the patient by asking additional questions and writing them into the record. Though, it is possible to get even more information from non verbal means during the informal interview. Body language can tell even more than the words. For example, if the hands of the patient tremble, he/she avoids looking into the eyes or physical proximity makes the person feel nervous, it is a serious sign that there is a problem like family violence.
A heart-to-heart talk between the patient and the social care worker is an indispensable part of therapy. It is impossible to provide people with good counseling, when there is no friendly atmosphere between the people. That is why it is essential for social care workers to pay attention to minor details and signs around them, because they provide additional information about the patient. For example, if there are many pictures of a girl in the house of an old lady, the councilor can ask her several questions about it. The old lady might be pleased by attention the social worker pays to her and their relations might become better. As a result, the woman will not feel embarrassed when she will need to talk about the problems with her health.
Keeping record and writing key things into it is also an important part of work the personnel of health and social care has to do. It is not difficult to forget minor details about the patient and those details might become crucial in an extraordinary situation (Connor 2009). For example, the patient can mention once that she/he has a milk allergy and it might be an embarrassing situation if the counselor brings her some milk as a present. Another important thing about keeping records is that health and social workers can be changed, but the information about all clients will be guarded in the office.
As it was mentioned earlier, East London is a multicultural place and people of various national and religious background live there. Inappropriate ways to communicate with patients can cause a lot of problems in the work of health and social workers. It is possible to give the following well-known example of barriers to communication that is based on religious issues. It is not a new thing that women from the Muslim religion are not allowed to show their body to men, even if they are doctors. Muslim women explain such behavior citing the Hilali-Khan translation of the Koran:
“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts, etc.) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like palms of hands or one eye or both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer dress like veil, gloves, head-cover, apron, etc.), and to draw their veils all over Juyubihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms, etc.) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husband’s sons, their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex” (The Koran).
In this case it is problematic to provide the patient with urgent help, because not every brigade of doctors has females who can work with the case. In addition, a health and social worker will not be allowed to learn all the secrets of family life, because the Muslim women do not think it is possible to share intimate problems with strangers.
Though, cultural differences are not the only thing that creates barriers in communication between social and health workers and their patients. This notion also refers to emotional distress of patients, sensory deprivation, environmental problems, language differences and disability. There are several ways to break the barriers in the communication process and adapting the environment is one of them. The room for communication needs to have a bright light; there should not be any disturbing noises that can irritate patients. It patients have problems with hearing, the devices like induction loop systems need by be fixed. It there are problems with language, the work of a signer or an interpreter is also needed. The social and health worker also needs to speak in appropriate clear and slow voice, so that the patient will understand everything without difficulties.
Clarifying and repeating is an important strategy of creating a effective communication between social care personnel and patients. The phases like “Excuse me, did you mean …” might help in avoiding mistakes. It is also possible to summarize in other world the messages of patients. When the counselor summarizes the information slowly, in a loud voice, helping herself/ himself with gestures, the client can check and correct it.
These issues might help in establishing effective communication care workers and those who use their services. Among the most significant advantages are the following ones:
The care workers can get relevant information considering the patient’s health quicker.
It is easier to understand individual needs of each patient and express support and acceptance.
Effective communication leads to reduction of dependency between the care worker and the patient, so that the patient can develop his/her abilities himself/herself.
Ill people and those who have certain social problems feel more secure with care workers. Their state of emotional vulnerability disappears.
Friendly atmosphere makes it easier for patients to talk about their worries and needs.
Patients feel that they can express themselves freely and so do not lose their identity in the process of supervising. Positive thinking is one of the most important issues that help to cope with problems (Coulshed 1998).
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of work of Health and Social Care Services. They provide the families and the patients with psychological support, they help people adapt in the foreign society and teach them how to express their personality in the strange culture. The health and social care personnel need to be skillful in the questions of communicating with ill people and flexible in the psychological issues to avoid problems with patients on individual, religious and cultural questions.
Connor, A. 2009, HNC in Social Care Student Book (HNC Social Care), Heinemann.
Coulshed, V. 1998, Social Work Practice (British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Practical Social Work), Palgrave Macmillan.
Johnston, P. 2006, Diversity index reveals Britain’s ethnic mix, viewed 26 October, 2013, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1530681/Diversity-index-reveals-Britains-ethnic-mix.html>.
The Koran, viewed 26 October, 2013, <http://quran.com/>.