Barriers to communicating with patients

There are a number of challenges in communicating with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) significantly reduces the ability for patients to see body language, in particular facial expression. We should be mindful of this when treating patients and, wherever possible, adapt communication style appropriately.

Some simple tips for improving communication during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  1. Eye-to-eye contact, to demonstrate that we feel compassion
  2. Come down to the patient’s level, to remove the physical barrier of standing over a patient
  3. Talk gently and slowly, in short sentences to improve uptake of information
  4. Leave pauses in our communication, to allow the patient to absorb what is being said
  5. Take the patient’s hand, and provide some physical contact which can be extremely comforting
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© Institute of Clinical Science and Technology (ICST) 2020