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  5. Use and develop systems that promote communication

Use and develop systems that promote communication

The unit ‘Use and develop systems that promote communication‘ explores the use of communication as a tool for leaders and managers in a care setting.

It examines different types of communication, overcoming communication barriers, the improvement of communication systems and effective information management.

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Learning Outcome 1: Be able to address the range of communication requirements in own role

1.1 Review the range of groups and individuals whose communication needs must be addressed in own job role

  • Communication is the delivery and reception of messages. This can be through speaking, listening, reading, writing, drawing, gesturing, facial expressions, Makaton, British Sign Language (BSL) etc.
  • Health and social care managers must be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of groups and individuals, including employees, other managers, other professionals, service users and their families.
  • Some individuals may have long-term communication issues (for example, due to brain injury) or short-term communication (for example, because they are in a heightened state of emotion, such as anger)
  • Communication needs to be flexible/adapted to the individual or group. For example, the way you speak to fellow professional may be quite clinical and complex, whereas when you speak to an individual with a learning disability, you may have to limit yourself to just two key points.

1.2 Explain how to support effective communication within own job role

  • Effective communication involves many skills including empathy, compassion, negotiation and compromise.
  • The most important element of effective communication is ensuring that the message is sent and received with clarity.
  • Skills such as active listening and checking that the message has been understood are essential.
  • Effective communication can be supported by trust and empowerment. By developing professional relationships with individuals and creating a bond that includes trust and respect, communication with these individuals can be made easier.
  • Tasks that involve effective communication can include giving instructions, providing feedback, interviewing, resolving conflicts and care planning.
  • Effective communicators are clear about the purpose of their interaction.
  • Good managers will support others to be effective communicators by acting as a role model, providing feedback and listening to and understanding their point of view. They may also provide specialist training and encourage open and transparent discussion.
  • Communicating with empathy and without judgement can support an individual to feel valued and understood.

1.3 Analyse the barriers and challenges to communication within own job role

  • Reflection can help identify barriers and challenges to effective communication in own practice.
  • Barriers and challenges may include tiredness, lack of interest, mode of communication (for example, being unable to observe facial expressions and body language during a telephone call), environment (for example, lighting, noise, lack of privacy etc.) and language (which can also include dialects, jargon and slang).

1.4 Implement a strategy to overcome communication barriers

  • Environmental barriers. Is the area where the communication takes place appropriate?
  • For example, you would not hold a disciplinary meeting corridor as it offers no privacy. Similarly, it would be difficult to hold a conversation with someone in a room that has a noisy photocopier in the corner. Or have a meeting room that is inaccessible for a wheelchair user. How would you resolve these issues?
  • There may be temporary barriers affecting an individual’s capacity to communication, such as if they are tired, anxious or angry. Sometimes, it is better to reschedule conversations to a day/time when these temporary barriers have surpassed.
  • Do yourself or your staff require additional training to communicate effectively with a particular service user or group of service users? For example, you may need to ensure that some staff are enrolled on a Makaton course. Or maybe you need more information about an individual’s culture or religion to understand their needs properly.
  • Can you identify any areas of your own practice where you want to improve your communication? Maybe you find it difficult to deliver presentations to large groups of people or you have difficulty understanding individuals with particular accents. Self-awareness is key to self-improvement. How can you improve these communication skills (often it is just a matter of stepping outside of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to situations that you would have previously avoided).

1.5 Use different means of communication to meet different needs

  • Demonstrate the means of communication that you use in your daily practice.
  • This could be verbal (including changes to intonation or language), gestures, facial expressions, written, electronic or pictorial.
  • For example, the use of flashcards to communicate with a non-verbal service user or ensuring that you are facing an individual that is hearing-impaired so that they are able to read your lips.
  • The purpose of the communication will also dictate the means.
  • For example, you may speak louder when giving a presentation to a roomful of people to ensure that you are heard or speak slower and more monotonous to a service user that is displaying behaviour that challenges.

Learning Outcome 2: Be able to improve communication systems and practices that support positive outcomes for individuals

2.1 Monitor the effectiveness of communication systems and practices

  • Communication systems and practices must be monitored to ensure that they are effective and to identify areas where improvements may be made.
  • Information may be gathered by surveys or questionnaires to groups and individuals such as employees, service users and their families.
  • Audits and observations may also be used.
  • As can team meeting minutes, supervisions and care plans.
  • Complaints received and the resulting investigations may also highlight areas where communication systems have not worked.

2.2 Evaluate the effectiveness of existing communication systems and practices

  • After collecting the information you have gathered, it will then need to be collated, analysed and evaluated to see where improvements could be made.
  • For example, team meeting minutes may indicate that care staff are having difficulty getting through to management for support at the weekends. This may be further evidenced by staff supervisions, in which staff report that feel isolated at the weekends. Other evidence, such as a spike in the number of incidents that occur at weekends may support this.
  • This information may demonstrate that the current communication system for out-of-hours managerial support needs to be changed.

2.3 Propose improvements to communication systems and practices to address any shortcomings

  • Using the example in the previous section, you may propose that managers and senior staff must answer their phones at weekends to deal with any issues at their individual services.
  • Or the proposal may be that an on-call mobile phone is purchased and is passed around the management team so that each member has it for a week at a time as part of an on-call rota system.
  • Or you may recommend that at least one manager should remain on shift each weekend to support the staff.
  • The proposal should attempt to resolve any issues with the previous communication process

2.4 Lead the implementation of revised communication systems and practices

  • Following a proposal being agreed, you must create an action plan to implement the revisions.
  • All changes should be communicated effectively to everyone involved and their questions answered, so that everyone is aware of what is expected of themselves and others.
  • Additional training and discussion may be needed before the changes are out in place.

3. Be able to improve communication systems to support partnership working 

3.1 Use communication systems to promote partnership working

  • Partnership working relates to different professionals and organisations working collaboratively to achieve their objectives.
  • Effective communication is necessary for effective partnership working.
  • Professional relationships and bonds of trust and transparency must be built with individuals that are external to your own organisation.
  • Communication systems can include meetings, emails, daily records, care plans and shared databases.
  • Care should still be taken to ensure that service user confidentiality is respected and personal information is only shared on a need-to-know basis.
  • However, effective partnership working does depend on the sharing of information.
  • There should be policies in place relating to partnership working and information sharing.

3.2 Compare the effectiveness of different communications systems for partnership working

  • Partnership working will usually involve the use of different communication systems
  • It is important that some sort of standardisation is used to address any issues between systems and maintain confidentiality.
  • For example, a group of professionals may use email to discuss a service user’s needs, however one member of the group only has a shared email address that is accessed by others individuals that should not have access to the service user’s information. This would result in a breach of confidentiality.

3.3 Propose improvements to communication systems for partnership working

  • Having identified shortfalls in a communication system used in partnership working, solutions should be offered to make improvements.
  • In the example above the individual  with the shared email address would need to obtain their own private email address for effective communication that maintains confidentiality.

Learning Outcome 4: Be able to use systems for effective information management 

4.1 Explain legal and ethical tensions between maintaining confidentiality and sharing information

  • Dilemmas can often occur between an individual’s right to confidentiality and the need to share information.
  • Healthcare workers must respect and maintain confidentiality as part of their job role.
  • However, there will be occasions when confidentiality must be broken, such as in cases of abuse or professional misconduct.
  • The right to confidentiality is legislated in the Data Protection Act 2018, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010.
  • However, confidential information may be disclosed under conditions described in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1999.
  • Ethically, care workers are privy to a lot of personal information that is required for them to fulfil their roles correctly. However, this brings with it the responsibility to ensure private information remains private. The sharing of private information (as well as being illegal) can also be upsetting for individuals. And in extreme cases could lead to them becoming victims of crime.

4.2 Analyse the essential features of information sharing agreements within and between organisations

  • Some of the features of Information sharing agreements between organisations may include:
  •  – Be shared lawfully
  •  – Have a written statement of the purpose for sharing information
  •  – Only to be shared on a need-to-know basis
  •  – Consent must be obtained where possible
  •  –  Staff should understand their responsibility regarding confidentiality

4.3 Demonstrate use of information management systems that meet legal and ethical requirements

  • Information management systems can include care plans, personnel records, client records and payroll.
  • Many organisations have replaced their paper-systems with digital alternatives.
  • These systems must be secure and maintain confidentiality as stated in legislation.
  • You may demonstrate any information system that your organisation and show the legal and ethical features.
  • For example, you may show that you only have access to the care plans of the service users that you are responsible for. Restriction to other clients may be via software or something as simple as only having the key to your own filing cabinet.

Useful Quotes

  • Active listening ensures that everything a person is trying to say is fully received and understood by the listener.” (Moss, 2020)

References