Radiologic Technologist: Communication With Patients

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Communication in the radiology department isn’t confined to patient interaction only. It is a broad subject and covers both the interaction between the patients and radiographers and radiographers and other medical professionals. All healthcare workers hold the responsibility of dealing with patients which is impossible without communication. In the radiology department, effective communication skills help in improving the quality of images obtained by achieving patient’s cooperation and trust. The effect of improved relationship with patients have provided dramatic clinical results and increased diagnostic quality of images as far as radiology is concerned.

Communication is defined as exchanging information, thoughts, messages or ideas to others by speaking, writing, moving your hands, etc. A patient develops his overall opinion of the imaging department based upon his interaction with the radiologic technologist. Provision of high-quality Patient care is dependent upon precise and appropriate communication.

Communication is an extensive subject and there are variety of ways a person can communicate. Voyal, Meyer and Harendza suggest that communication basically encompasses both verbal and nonverbal aspects in medical settings (2018) (2) As radiologic technologists we read patients and decode what they say and mean. In return, patients, intentionally or unintentionally read us and interpret what we say and what we mean.

Communication is basically divided into two broad categories: verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication can be explained as messages that are conveyed through speech which is usually designed using the tone of the voice, the pitch, the vocabulary and even the order of the spoken statements.

The health care professionals should take care while communicating with the patient. The health care professionals should talk to the patient in a language that can be understood by the patient and should be lenient while dealing with them. The use of medical terms should be avoided, and clear instructions should be given to the patient to achieve maximum cooperation.

The key to effective and successful communication is being polite. A radiographer should know that his behavior should always be professional, and he should show competency throughout the procedure.

Some of the factors that serve as hurdles in effective patient communication are the individual, cultural and generational differences that exist between us. This, at times also effect the ability of a person to understand the message we want to convey and thus affect the quality of provided services.

Although non-verbal communication, at times takes place without verbal interference, but an overlap of both verbal and non-verbal messages provides more clarity and meaning to the conversation.

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Non-verbal communication is more effective when it comes to emotions and is usually the leading force in exchange of meaning. Non-verbal communication aid verbal communication but in some cases, non-verbal cues may also be contradictory to what is said. Patients in these circumstances, usually accept the non-verbal cues. Therefore, its necessary that radiologic technologists avoid offering confusing signals to the patients.

Speaking to the patient in a friendly tone, responding frankly and smiling, which always prove beneficial are all examples of positive non-verbal cues. In many cultures, visual contact is a re-affirmation that undivided attention is provided to the other person in the conversation. This add more meaning to the words and is quite effective in achieving patient’s trust and respect.

History of the patient is also improved when negative nonverbal cues are implied. Showing puzzlement and confusion allows the patient to elaborate about his condition and adds to the clinical value. However, rolling of eyes and shrugging of shoulders should always be avoided as they give a negative impression and might serve as obstacles in effective provision of services.

Gentle assistance to the patient to get on or off the radiographic table and in or out of the rom are all examples of emotional support. The radiologic technologists in such scenarios, affirm the patients of their well being and achieves the patient’s cooperation.

Touching the patient to emphasize and highlight the requirements of the procedure and to localize pain, all comes under touching for emphasis.

The application of light pressure using fingers to locate bony landmarks is known as palpation. This type of touch is extremely necessary to the radiologic technologist for accurate patient positioning. It should be kept in mind that palpation is more efficient and precise when fingertips are used.

The radiologic technologist should always bear in mind that no matter what the purpose of touch is, permission from the patient should always be obtained. The patient should never be touched without their consent.

The radiologic technologist should also be aware that the usage of verbal cues, non-verbal cues or both merely depends upon the patient he or she is dealing with. The radiology technologists should be competent enough to select which of the above-mentioned type of communication is suitable to the presented scenario. His critical thinking and decision-making skills are also at test with every patient. For instance, pediatric patients work and react well to the verbal instructions and hence while communicating with them, Radiology technologists should use verbal means of communication. On the other hand, Non-verbal communication is the dominant means of communication when patients with special needs are brought to the imaging department. Moreover, patients who neither speak nor understand the native or official language are usually dealt with using nonverbal communication. Generally, both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication are used and an overlap of both provide more accurate and desirable clinical results.

To conclude, radiology department offers patient-centered services. Communication with the patient is a key component of clinical success. A set of communication skills are required for increasing the quality of patient care. From the time a patient enters the radiology department, the process of communication begins and ends with patient leaving the department. The two main types of communication are the verbal and the non-verbal communication. The radiologic technologists based on the patient decides what type of communication will be more effective in the completion of the exam.

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