Skip to main content

Challenging conversations



When pregnant of our second baby boy early 2015, the midwife at our local hospital detected an ectopic heartbeat during one of the antenatal visits. I was put on a fetal heart monitor immediately and was scheduled in for an advanced ultrasound later that day.

I remember it vividly: I entered the room to have the ultrasound and I could hardly hold back the tears. Fear was raging through my body and the only thought on my mind was: "What if there is something wrong with our baby?"

The specialist carrying out the ultrasound turned out to be an absolute expert in his profession. "One of the best" his lovely assistant whispered in my ear right before he got started. But he also turned out to be completely incapable of dealing with all my big emotions. When I started to cry he avoided any eye contact and kept looking at his screen. He ignored my tears and mumbled that I had to try and lie still whilst moving the transducer around over my belly. After a few minutes he started rambling about how the fetal arrhythmia included tachycardia, which he thought was supra-ventricular...

It turned out that meant our little boy was fine.

But what would have happened if this man was the one that had to bring me bad news about our baby? And had to deal with my feelings of intense sadness or anger?

As I've experienced first hand, but even more so in my day to day work as a corporate actor, it demonstrates that professionals working in Health Care have great knowledge but can sometimes lack an extremely important clinical competency: Emphatic Communication.

Communication with patients in today's healthcare is increasingly complex and more important than ever. Whether focused on disclosure of medical error, prenatal diagnoses or ethical quandaries arising from the ability to sustain life: today's Healthcare professionals face difficult conversations more and more as part of their day to day patient care.

Therefor I am thrilled to see that more and more Health Care Organisations and Medical Schools are working with role play actors to simulate patients and family members in training workshops. Because actors, also known as 'simulated patients', allow caregivers to EXPERIENCE these difficult situations as real life as it can get. In the debriefing the role play actors help the participants reflect on and understand what truly happened in a conversation. Without risking relationships or reputation.

This way of experiential learning prepares caregivers for the sometimes tough reality. And it is a development that will be highly appreciated by all patients.

Including myself ;)


PS. In a recent survey conducted by InterACT WA nearly all participants have described our actors' portrayal as realistic. 97% of participants reported that the actor was valuable to the learning process and 95% felt role play with other colleagues would not have been as educationally valuable. Would you like to know how we can help your organisation with role play simulation? Contact me here for a chat.





 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Emotions at work? Yes please!

  "I was biting my tongue the whole time"  "Gosh, he makes my blood boil"  "I wish she would just get off my back"  “There is a knot in my stomach”   These are all common idioms which are related to where emotions can settle in our body. We especially notice it during those tricky conversations.  But weirdly enough, even though our body is telling us exactly what is going on, we hardly listen to it.  A missed opportunity because they are crucial signals that remind you to use your communication skills and our emotional intelligence.  What to do?    -        *  Do you notice tension in your body? Do you feel your heart beat faster? You may find it an exciting conversation. Ask yourself: What do I find exciting or difficult? -        *  State what you see or feel. Such as: "I notice my heart is beating fast and there is a knot in my stomach. I feel uncomfortable.”   -       *   Examine your own judgment of emotions. What do you th

How we help Leaders Learn more Deeply

Much research has been done into effective ways of learning. But we can cautiously say that learning is too complex an activity for conclusive theories. Which is not to say that we are in the dark. An educational thinker who has stood the test of time is David Kolb. In the 1970s and 1980s, this learning psychologist developed an influential and useful concept about learning that can also be found in all of our InterACT WA Communication & Leadership training courses. What is it?  Kolb divided the learning process into four phases. He saw them as cyclical, so he put them in a circle. Whoever wants to learn something, according to Kolb, must go through every phase of the circle. And not once, no, often you have to go through the circle a few times to get to what really matters: to learn more deeply. Learning more deeply means: you can remember what you have learned and apply it in practice. You don't have to be an educationalist to see that as a wonderful outcome of learni

5 reasons role play fails

Role playing is one of the most effective learning methods. Especially when you choose to work with a professional actor. Surprisingly it’s also one of the most misused techniques.  So what goes wrong? Well, pay attention and learn which 5 failures make role play fail miserably: 1. Unsafe practice   environment Most people are not dying of enthusiasm to do a role play simulation. That is why its extremely important to invest time and effort in creating a safe practice environment. Never ever push people intro a role play scenario if they really don't want to. They wont learn a thing and will only be more reluctant to do so in the future. 2. No alignment between learning goals and role play.  The role play has to be completely dedicated to the learning goal of the participant. Unfortunately sometimes people are eager to change the role play into an interesting theatrical scene. Perhaps fun to look at, but not very helpful to the participant. No role play s