Effective communication skills can help you bring awareness, advance care planning to patients

National Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16.

As a caregiver, have you ever encountered patients and families who have thoughtfully considered advance care planning? Most people don’t think about it – until it’s too late. It’s a conversation that might come up when families find themselves around a bed in an intensive care unit, not the kitchen table.

How do you encourage someone to make their wishes known? How do you start the conversation with patients about advance care planning?

The skills taught by The Institute for Healthcare Excellence can help get the conversation started and open the door to gently empower patients to think about their choices and make them known. In addition to contributing to patients’ peace of mind, you might contribute to your own, knowing that you’ve spurred communication between family members in your care.

Practicing the skills of respect, empathy, legitimization, trust and openness can help you offer the support your patients need to make decisions about their care.

“Good reflective listening and offering an empathetic ear can encourage patients to share their wishes and then discuss them with their loved ones,” Linda Scaz, RN, PhD, FCN, says. Dr. Scaz is a member of the faculty at The Institute for Healthcare Excellence and has served as a Senior Director of Clinical Care and Operations at Haven Hospice of Northeast Florida.

“It’s important to be mindful of where people are in their discussion of their current healthcare needs, and use effective communication skills to foster openness,” Dr. Scaz adds.

While it’s not an easy conversation, Dr. Scaz points out that with the right words, even reluctant patients might return to their healthcare provider to continue the discussion. You can be ready to gently open the door for them to start documenting their choices freely and without judgment.

“Effective communication skills are key to helping others express their wishes, help their families honor them, and help your patients be comfortable physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Dr. Scaz says.

Learn more about effective communications in healthcare.  |  See Dr. Scaz’s bio.

DID YOU KNOW?

It’s important to review advance care plans whenever there is change in decade, death of a loved one, divorce, a new diagnosis or a decline in health. Honoring Choices calls these the “Five Ds.”

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