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February 16, 2022

Conflict Management in the Emergency Department: Different Language Types

As vehicles for the training content,  I had developed a set of common target scenarios from the information I had gathered in talking with the management, the learning development team and the staff themselves. We worked through these scenarios through the training, ranging from easy scenarios, such as encountering somebody who looks lost in the emergency department, all the way through to the more difficult situations where a patient is refusing treatment and deciding that they were going to leave the department and cancel treatment .

In practicing these scenarios, it was really interesting to see staff coming from different cultural and ethnic and linguistic backgrounds interacting with patients in strikingly different ways. It became a huge effort for me to make sure that people didn’t revert back to ‘diagnostic’ and ‘control’ type language.  

Instead we asked staff to focus on using empathetic and connecting-type language – words that would help them to demonstrate real concern, to genuinely understand the patient and connect with them in such a human way that the interaction goes smoothly, that the patient feels listened to that the patient feels that they have rapport with the medical professional so that they can open up and describe more completely how they were feeling, what they were worried about, what concerns they have, what reservations they might have about the treatment, about the results or the effects of the injury or the complaint they are having. 

Research has explored three types of communication used by physicians with their patients:

  • CONTENT -into gathering, assessment, diagnosis.
  • PROCESS orientation, explaining, preparing expectations
  • EMOTIONAL validating, empathising, warmth, humor, addressing worries. 

Researchers have found that physicians were in trouble if there was significant diverence in Category 3 communication i. e. less emotion = more lawsuits filed against physicians.

As we went through of the scenarios over and over again, it was important to continually remind staff to show their warmth, to connect with people, to not be afraid to make the interaction more human, and to slow down, to create some as much time as they could to do these things in order to have a more successful interaction with their patients, every day.

Dynamis provides a comprehensive conflict management training programme which spans the whole spectrum of encounters in a hospital environment.  In this series of posts, our Director of Training reflects on key ideas in addressing conflict in the hospital. 

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Conflict Management in the Emergency Department: Different Language Types

Conflict Management in the Emergency Department: Different Language Types

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Gerard O'Dea is the Director of Training for Dynamis. Training Advisor, Speaker, Author and Expert Witness on Personal Safety, Conflict Management and Physical Interventions, he is the European Advisor for Vistelar Conflict Management, a global programme focussing on the spectrum of human conflict.

Gerard O'Dea

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