This is a continuation of the previous article on Personnel Management/Supervision that appeared in the September 2011 issue, which discussed “appraising performance” and “competency assessment.” In this article, we will discuss communicating with all staff at various levels.
Communication is an important aspect of the biomedical/clinical engineering manager’s job and is essential for the manager’s success. Communication is not just with the BMETs and biomedical/clinical engineers, but also with other clinical and nonclinical staff in the health care organization. Clinical staff includes nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals, and nonclinical staff includes human resources, purchasing/contracting, finance, engineering, information technology, and others.
Successful communication, defined as the exchange of information, facts, and ideas from one person to another, occurs when the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender conveyed.
Barriers to Effective Communication
The manager’s challenge is to overcome the barriers of communication in all the interactions with staff. Barriers include:
- Noise, Interruptions, and Distractions: The equipment or environmental noise (eg, alarms and construction) hinder clear communication. The sender and the receiver should be able to focus on the messages being sent to each other.
- Physiological Obstacles: These include fatigue, hunger, and stress, which can distract the sender and the receiver.
- Emotional Conditions: The emotional state and the feelings of both the sender and the receiver, such as rage, self-assurance, or fear.
- The Agenda or Topic: The importance and relevance of the topic or agenda to the sender and the receiver.
- Meeting Setup: The time, location, and structure of the meeting.
- Culture, Background, and Biases: Our past experiences may change the meaning of the message. Sometimes our culture, background, and bias allow us to use our past experiences to understand something better.
- Vocabulary and Terminology: This may create misunderstandings or cause incorrect interpretations. This is important, particularly in communication between biomedical/clinical engineering staff and clinical users.
- Conflicting Goals: Clinical users may have a different opinion about equipment or service.
Effective Communication Techniques
The following effective communication techniques can help the manager when requesting and receiving information with all staff.
- Being Receptive to Information: The manager must listen carefully and attentively to all the information conveyed, and must stay focused and concentrate on the speaker’s message. Also, he/she needs to listen patiently to what the other person has to say. This should be indicated by nodding the head or occasionally saying, “I see,” even if they believe what the other person is saying is wrong or irrelevant.
- Observing Body Language: Body language is a form of nonverbal communication. It includes body posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, tone of voice, and other signals that may provide information about the message being sent.
- Asking Questions: If you are not clear about the meaning of the message, ask clarifying questions.
- Restating Information: Repeat or paraphrase the information conveyed to ensure accuracy.
- Actively Listening: Listening attentively to the speaker is often overlooked as a major communication skill. You must deliberately commit time and energy to pay attention to what the other person is saying.
The responsibility of effective communication lies mainly with the speaker. When the speaker sends a message to someone, the speaker must ensure that it is straightforward and clear so that the receiver does not have to spend a lot of time trying to interpret what the message is about. The speaker must be attentive to any signs that the receiver may be puzzled or may have difficulty following the message. Also, the speaker needs to be aware of any nonverbal aspects of communication to make sure there is no ambiguity.
Arif Subhan, MS, CCE, is the chief biomedical engineer, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System, Omaha; adjunct assistant professor, biomedical engineering, University of Connecticut; and a member of 24×7‘s editorial advisory board. The suggestions and views expressed in this article are of the author. They do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the University of Connecticut. For more information, contact .