The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills you can have. This is true of life in general, but it is even more essential when it comes to healthcare. If you work in an industry where people seek you out to help them overcome sometimes-vulnerable healthcare problems, clear communication is critical. You must be able to interact with patients and convey respect. With that said, this is easier said than done sometimes.
Are you interested in learning more about good communication skills for pharmacists? Here are some of the most important skills to master if you want to become a pharmacist.
Why does communication matter?
Think about your relationships, both personal and professional. Would you say that clear communication was important in building them and remains important in maintaining them? Most people would say “yes”. When you communicate with your friends and colleagues, you are building and maintaining a rapport with them. This makes it easier to trust them and, in turn, to count on them if you need help. This holds true in pharmacists-patient relationships, too.
According to the Institute for Healthcare Communication (IHC), clear communication in healthcare is critical for several different reasons. One of the most important of them is that ineffective communication has been tied to medical errors and patient harm. More specifically, a study conducted from 1995 to 2005 found that 66% of all medical errors during that time period stemmed from poor communication.
Additionally, patients who do not trust their pharmacist enough to ask questions or ask for clarification are more likely to take their medication the wrong way. This can lead to varying degrees of harm and can even lead to death in extreme situations. Patients who trust their pharmacists and can communicate honestly and effectively with them, on the other hand, are less likely to suffer from medication mistakes.
Communication matters because it keeps patients as healthy and happy as possible. Poor communication worsens patient outcomes and can lead to serious harm.
Which communication skills are important for pharmacists?
There are many kinds of communication skills, and not all of them are important for pharmacists. Here are some of the most important skills to keep in mind.
- Relationship building
Pharmacists serve as the bridge between the greater medical world and their patients’ safety and well-being. They are responsible for quickly dispensing a patient’s needed medications as well as clearly and effectively communicating how to take that medicine as well as any potential risks it might pose to their health. To take the best possible care of those patients, pharmacists must understand how to build relationships.
Consider your relationship with patients to be your “bread and butter”. Make it easy for patients to ask questions, be it in-person or over the phone (as safety rules and regulations allow, of course), and always strive to be polite and respectful, even when the interactions are frustrating.
- Teamwork and delegation
We have talked a lot about why communication between patients and pharmacists is important, but these are not the only relationships that matter. Communication between pharmacists and their staff and colleagues is just as important. Pharmacy staff is the “glue” that builds a strong, cohesive, and effective team. Without them, patients ultimately suffer as communication breaks down across the board. Effective pharmacists understand how to communicate not only with patients but also with everyone in their office.
An important part of being a pharmacist is the ability to delegate tasks. You must know what to say (what facts to convey) as well as how to say what needs to be said. How do you best get through to the people on your team? Good pharmacists will know the answer. Focus on building relationships with your in-office team just as you do with patients.
- Conflict de-escalation
It might not be the first thing that comes to mind when picturing a pharmacist’s responsibilities, but the ability to de-escalate potentially volatile situations is incredibly important. Remember that as a pharmacist, you will be working with vulnerable populations dealing with frustrating, scary, and confusing symptoms. They will not always be at their best, and some patients will be more composed than others.
As a pharmacist, it is your job to keep your staff and your patients safe. You must be able to recognize a potentially volatile situation and step in before things go wrong. Smooth things over with the patients in the front of the store and your staff in the back of the store to keep things running smoothing.
How can I improve my communication skills?
There are a few ways you can boost your communication skills. Why not take an online course dedicated specifically to pharmacists? You can earn your pharm d online and learn everything you need to thrive. This is perhaps the most fool-proof way of improving your pharmacy-specific communication skills. And if you pick a respected program such as the one linked above from the University of Findlay, you can get a head start in your career with a degree!
Beyond enrolling in a pharmacy class, you can improve your communication skills by making a conscious effort to communicate better. Where do you struggle with communicating? Take note of the areas where you need to improve and start practicing. Throughout your day, whether you are at work or not, try to communicate completely and keep your communication goals in mind. You might consider taking a post-It with the skills you want to improve with you throughout the day. Every time you see it, you will be reminded to practice.
Don’t be afraid to involve your friends and family! If you have supportive loved ones, tell them what you are trying to do and ask them to help. You might be surprised at just how well this can help. Having people you trust and respect encouraging you to refine your communication skills in real time can turbocharge your efforts.
Are you interested in becoming a pharmacist? Keep our tips above in mind!