Developing Effective Communication in Health and Social Care

During the course of fifteen weeks I visited my work placement which is a combination of pre- school and primary setting known as ‘Oakwood East Sussex School’ located near the Hampden park of Eastbourne. The majority of the time spent at this placement was observing and interacting with year 2 and 3 children of different ages, from 6 to 8 years. I also communicated with the staff and observed the way the parents and staff interacted. I thoroughly enjoyed attending this setting every Monday from 8:30a.m until 3:30p.m, because it was interesting to see how a class was run and how communication helped each child to develop in their own learning skills.

In Chapter One I will explain different types of communication and interpersonal interaction that I have observed while on work placement. Communication is the process of sharing ideas or thoughts, information, and messages with others, whether this is with one other person or with several people, at a particular time and place. In Chapter Two I will explain how the communication cycle can be used to communicate difficult, complex and sensitive issues. In Chapter Three I will give examples from work placement, describing some of the factors that can restrict communication and interpersonal interaction.

People will feel value and respected when they have been listened to, and when they feel their needs and wishes have been understood by the care Worker. In Chapter Four I will explain how the communication needs of service users may be assisted and supported. Also, I will give examples from work placement on how the specific communication needs of service users have been met in Chapter Five. I have experienced a one to one and a small group interaction on work placement. I also will explain the communication skills that I have used to interact with service users.

Communication enables the interaction between two people or a group of people and allows people’s needs to be put across, such as what they are thinking or feeling. It is also important for developing relationships. In Chapter Six I will reflect on my own communication skills and identify the ways that could have been used to make the interaction more effective. In Chapter Seven I will look at factors both positive and negative that I think may have influenced the interactions undertaken. Finally, I will analyse how communication in health and social care settings assists service users/ patients and other key people in Chapter Eight.


While on work placement, I have noticed four different types of communication been used, including spoken, written, visual and non-verbal communication. As I was working in a class mixed with year 2 and 3 of children age between 6 and 8 years old. I have been very impressed and learnt a lot from my observation how the communication has been carried out between teacher to students, students to students, teacher to member of staff or parents etc.

I noticed the teacher has used all types of communication and interpersonal interaction skills in her teaching which has made the lessons very interesting and create an effective learning environment in the classroom. Verbal communication used by the teacher is very effective in a way that she can maintain her authority and keeps control of the class as well as to communicate to the students in order to teach them and for them to learn from her. For example, the teacher uses appropriate vocabulary to the students and speaking to them with correct and different rhythm, tone, pitch and volume. Some times she asks questions or repeats what she said to make sure there is not misunderstanding. Also, the teacher would raise her pitch, tone of voice to show that she was angry and annoyed or to convey her excitement. She sometimes uses different humour to lighten the class.

Non-verbal communication such as eye contact, facial expression, body language, posture and gesture etc are used in the class. For instance, the teacher often smiles to encourage, shows pleasure and praise the students. However, she would frown or raise her eyebrows to show her disapproval or disappointment. She would have eye contact with them to show her respect and understanding. Students raise their hands if they want to answer the question asked by the teacher or if they have something to ask. Also, they would show a worrying face if they do not understand what has been said to them. I also learnt a technique that has been used by the teacher when she wants the class to be quite, she would rise up her hand.

Written communication used in my work placement, including a learner achievement board, which displays on-going achievements, scheme of work, weekly timetable and scheduled reviews. This has proved to be an effective communication between teacher and students, as it enables the students to feel that their needs are being addressed and also gives the students more responsibility for their own learning.

There is also visual communication, such as the use of images or pictures and electronic communication to help to make known messages and emotions to people, for example ICT – “information communication technology” with the internet has been installed in every classroom, which provide interactive communication for teacher and students.

Television and Radio are visual and sound systems to communicate information. They come under recorded information as a type of interpersonal communication that enables the re-experience of messages from the past. Other examples are CDs, videos, tapes etc.

The communication cycle is the sending and receiving of messages. Messages are sent from one person to another through verbal or non-verbal communication. People use their senses to receive the message. The communication cycle is the process people become involved in when expressing thoughts and interpreting the thoughts of others. It involves the following six steps:

1. Expressing our thoughts – at this stage, we need to think about what it is that we need to communicate and to whom. For instance, the school teacher wants to teach her students how to write a story. She needs to think the best way to communicate this information; if she should use charts, pictures or diagrams; should she make up an interesting story to show the class how to do it.

2. Watching the other person’s non-verbal response and body language – she started by telling a funny story which has attract the students’ attention. The children appear to be very interested and excited by showing their eye contact with the teacher and their face are lightening.

3. Interpreting the other person’s body language and trying to work out what they are thinking – the teacher will know if her techniques work or not by watching the body language of the children. Has her story been followed? Are they interested or bored?

4. Listening to their response to what we said – at this stage, the teacher may ask if anyone who can makeup a sentence to follow her story, or she may ask some questions to find out if the children follow her or not.

5. Trying to make sense of their response – the teacher will know if she had made herself understood and her instruction followed by listening to the feedback from the children.

6. Expressing new ideas to try and clarify our ideas. – the teacher will have to try again from stage one if her communication wasn’t very successful. She might need to think how she can best communicate her ideas.

Verbal and non-verbal communications have different affects on the cycle. For example the first step relevant to verbal communication would be speaking, music or any language based on sounds which are heard. Whereas in non-verbal communication it could be sign language, signs, symbols, gestures, writing etc. After someone has expresses something either verbally or non-verbally the next step would be to watch the other person’s body language to see their response. By analysing the facial expressions, body posture and muscle tone it is possible to try and work out what the other person is thinking. This means that they are expressing their feelings in a non-verbal manner. These physical movements and gestures can be easily misinterpreted, as non-verbal communication is a language that varies with history and culture.

Communicate difficult, complex and sensitive issues

There are times when we have to communicate difficult, complex and sensitive issues with people, which can be distressing; frightening; traumatic or threatening. For instance, if we have to tell someone about a bad news such as the death of a close friend or relative, or if we have to let someone know that he/she has not got the job or pass the exam. can be very distressing. We know the information that we are going to give is very difficult, complex and sensitive but if we handle the situation correctly by understanding and using communication cycle, we can reduce the tension or impact that may have on the receiver.

My first work placement is in a nursing home, where I also saw how the communication cycle is used to handle difficult and sensitive issues. The nurse in charge called Emma has to inform the relative of a patient who is dying. She decides the best way to communicate the message is by using telephone as time is concerned. The relative knows how ill the patient has been so it should not be a surprise to him/her but Emma has to convey her sympathy when she talks. She can not see the body language of the person she talks to so she has to listen carefully if the relative is too upsetting to continue the conversation. Emma tries to talk politely but make sure the conversation is appropriate and not too emotional. The relative said that he/she would like to come to see the resident.

At my last work placement, I witnessed how Ms. Morse uses her communication skills to tell children about violence and other sensitive and complex issues in the world. Sometime students may ask her about drugs, sex, relationships and alcohol, as they can get the information from TV, movies, magazines or from friends.

Once she needs to talk about the violence in the world, she has to consider if what she says will scare the children and how she can communicate this information supportively and comfortably. She may also need to consider simple language so they can understand. Also she may have to give an example from current news coverage.

When she starts talking she needs to watch her audience’s body language. The facial expression can show our emotions. Some children will be sad, anxious and even fearful for their own family’s safety, others will be confused about how to make sense of the events, and others will have little reaction. Some will respond with excitement and anticipation, while others will have a mix of emotions-fear, sorrow, and worry, for example.

She needs to listen to their response in a way that can show she is interested and attentive to what they said. Then she needs to understand what they are saying from their point of view. If she can not understand something, she will ask them to explain it.

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