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February 16, 2022

Healthcare Communication and Language Types in Conflict Resolution

As vehicles for our training content in Healthcare Communication for one Emergency Department team,  I developed a set of common target scenarios from the information I gathered in talking with the management, the learning development team and the staff themselves. We worked through these Healthcare Communication scenarios in 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 Healthcare Communication encounters, 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 to ‘diagnostic’ and ‘control’ type language.  

Here are some resources about language and Healthcare Communication skills:

Empathy and Connection is critical in Healthcare Communication

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. 

Three types of language in Healthcare Communication

Research has explored three types of Healthcare 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 practiced Healthcare Communication 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.


Here’s a video which supports the ideas in our article about healthcare communication.

Dynamis provides a comprehensive conflict resolution 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 reducing conflict in the hospital

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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.

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