Aims Good communication between medical teams and parents is integral to all aspects of paediatric practice. Not only is good communication emphasised in the General Medical Council’s ‘Good Medical Practice’ guidelines but it is also part of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health curriculum; however training is usually delivered locally and can be variable. The aim of this project was to analyse what healthcare providers and users understand by effective communication and consider the difficulties achieving good communication and ways paediatric doctors can improve these skills.
Method Semi structured interviews were conducted with 5 junior doctors, 2 nurses and 5 parents of inpatients at a tertiary paediatric hospital. We explored what was understood by effective communication and how it is achieved. Challenges to good communication were identified with discussion of possible improvements. Common themes were analysed from the interviews.
Results Doctors identified effective communication as imparting information to parents concisely and free of medical jargon. Parents concurred, however their priority was that they were listened to. Nurses felt they often bridged a communication gap between parents and doctors. Challenges facing doctors were time pressures, inexperience and continuity of information relayed. Parents complained they got mixed messages from team members. Although communication skills are well taught at undergraduate level, many doctors felt there was inadequate postgraduate training focussing on paediatrics. In response to this a communication workshop was developed and delivered to junior doctors at the beginning of their rotation in general paediatrics. The workshop used real life scenarios for participants to translate the theory of effective communication into practice giving them a chance to implement the ideas discussed. This was well received by participants and feedback was positive.
Conclusion The term effective communication is interpreted differently by junior doctors, nurses and parents. Communication is a continuous process and more emphasis and training should be given to junior doctors focussing on the paediatric environment. Doctors would benefit from regular ‘on the job’ workshops to practise these skills.