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21 May 2021
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Humanising Healthcare - a medical student's perspective

By Johno Hirniak

Elective Student, FMLM Medical Student Leadership Scheme

The FMLM Humanising Healthcare online leadership forum was a useful experience to reflect on my own practice and add on to the teachings I received during the FMLM elective. One talk that resonated with me particularly was ‘The Art of Communication – The Human Elements’ delivered by Cathy MacDonald, which explored the significance of emotion in communication. Emotion helps us to connect, understand and communicate with one another, it influences what we do and why we do what we do, but it can alter one’s perception of intended meaning.  

Cathy covered the five core emotional concerns by Roger Fisher and Dan Shapiro – five things that needed to be balanced in order to be content and happy. One of these is “Appreciation” – as in actively using something as we respond to as humans. In a healthcare setting with growing patient demands and complexity, staff shortages and an immediate need to adapt outside our comfortable zones, our NHS staff have gone above and beyond and it is important to appreciate this in our day to day practice. Saying “thank you” is good, but there are some useful ways one can make it feel more meaningful. Think about what you are thanking them for, and acknowledge this; you might be busy, but taking a few minutes to just make your colleague a coffee and let them discuss their feelings and thoughts can be an emotional relief and let them feel heard; do something for them – whether it’s offering to take those last few bloods, change the bedding or cleaning up, this can mean a lot to someone who feels stressed and unnoticed; and sometimes what’s needed is a hand on the back of a shoulder to say it’s okay.  

I like to think I’m good at saying thank you, I say it all the time - particularly to my mother for everything she has done for me! But I had never really reflected on how I say what I say and what I do to make people realise just how thankful I am. This was my own emotional needs clouding my judgement, and not recognising that there’s more than one way to show appreciation. 

This session was a useful and timely reminder of the impact and importance of human communication and care.

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