Advocating for the Integration of Soft Skills Training in the Healthcare Curriculum
As a Healthcare Professional who has been fortunate to have climbed up the corporate ladder and now transitioning into consulting and training, a cursory review of the list of clients of Allotey & Associates leaves me short when it comes to identifying healthcare companies interested in the development of soft skills in their personnel. Whereas other industries see the need for this investment and are reaping the results, the healthcare industry is lagging. The question therefore arises for me: Are we getting maximum results from the human capital in the healthcare industry? I ask this question as traditionally, some of our best brains end up in this industry BUT are we getting the outmost efficiency from this human capital? I am dedicating the following few weeks to sharing my thoughts on capacity building of human capital in the healthcare industry, especially with special relation to soft skills which our traditional training does not equip us with.
As one comes to terms with the increasingly changing landscape of healthcare, where advancements in medical science are accompanied by an increasing emphasis on patient-centered care, the need for soft skills training in the industry has become more critical than ever. Our curriculum is focused on only technical expertise in our various aspects of the healthcare delivery team. While I concede that technical expertise is undoubtedly indispensable, the ability of healthcare professionals to effectively navigate the human side of healthcare through such skills such as effective communication, emotional intelligence, and time management among others, is equally crucial. In the next paragraphs, I will like to make my case because from my own personal experience, the healthcare industry stands to benefit significantly from investing in soft skills training for all their human capital, especially leadership.
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION AND EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Soft skills, such as effective communication and emotional intelligence, play a pivotal role in shaping the patient experience. A healthcare professional with strong communication skills can explain complex medical information in an accessible manner, alleviating patient anxiety and fostering a sense of trust. Emotional Intelligence (EQ), on the other hand, allows us to understand our OWN FEELINGS and those of OTHER PEOPLE, and to CONSIDER OTHER PEOPLE’S FEELINGS when MAKING DECISIONS. As such, having the EQ skillset allows one to create a compassionate connection, making patients feel heard and understood. Like we always say, people always remember how you made them feel. As such, being able to effectively communicate complex medical situations with empathy is a sure way of obtaining the loyalty of your patients! The question we need to ask ourselves is this: ARE WE EQUIPED FROM SCHOOL TO DO THIS?
Effective listening is defined as a conscious process in which a person sustains attention toward a speaker and actively engages in the role of the listener during a conversation. This entire process will be made up of critical features such as attention to detail, observation of non-verbal communication behaviors, probing and sometimes summarizing what we THINK we heard. Substituting a patient and a healthcare worker in the roles above, I can bet my bottom dollar that this rarely exists in our settings. Our healthcare professionals may be over worked and all. However, how can we build any meaningful trust with a patient if we seem not to listen to what they have to say? I remember a particular case during my years in the University. Some friends always complained that the healthcare professionals already had prescriptions ready for them before they finished narrating the reason for even coming to the hospital. We need as a matter of importance to teach our healthcare professionals the importance of such a soft skill as effective listening. Effective listening will build trust. Trust is the foundation of the patient-healthcare professional relationship. Therefore, we cannot over emphasize the importance of soft skills, such as effective listening and cultural competence. These contribute to building trust by acknowledging and respecting patients’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives. A trusting relationship positively impacts patient satisfaction, fostering loyalty and engagement in their healthcare journey. Remember, it is a loyal patient who will influence your bottom line. He is your customer, treat him as a KING!
STRESS MANAGEMENT IN THE HEALTHCARE “PRESSURE COOKER”
Burn out and poor well-being are constant complaints we hear from our healthcare professionals. I really empathize with them as this is a consequence of the “pressure cooker” environment they are forced to work in. Whiles investing in giving them the technical know-how, I do know from my training that at no point in time were we taught how to deal with stress management or resilience. The general assumptions are that you will learn to cope once you get into the system. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Our curriculum is silent on teaching the soft skills required for dealing with stress and how to attain resilience. Now more than ever, and after numerous hours spent in the board rooms (I believe the same can be said for the consulting room, operating theatre, pharmacy, laboratory, etc.) I honestly do believe that all healthcare managers need to invest in the training of their human capital in these soft skills.
In conclusion, the healthcare industry’s recognition of the value of soft skills is imperative for its continued success. Investing in soft skills training not only enhances the interpersonal capabilities of healthcare professionals but also translates into tangible benefits such as improved patient outcomes, increased satisfaction, and a more resilient and adaptable healthcare workforce, not forgetting your bottom lines as well. As the industry continues to evolve, the integration of soft skills training in our curriculum, in my opinion, remains a strategic imperative to ensure healthcare professionals are equipped to meet the holistic needs of patients and the business (because that is what a healthcare facility ultimately is) in a rapidly changing healthcare industry.
Next ARTICLE: I will be addressing the issues of adaptability and flexibility, problem-solving skills and cultural competence in an ever-evolving global village of healthcare.
Ps: Allotey & Associates have obtained considerable experience in organizational development in some of the most competitive business sectors and works at the intersection of strategic leadership, robust management practices and organization culture to guide the realization of the vision and corporate strategy. The mandate of the organization, their vision and corporate strategy will, to a very large extent, assist us to tailor any training program to meet their needs requirements. As such, the training workshops seek to achieve an effective team with the right organizational culture and behaviors, aligned to corporate vision and goals.
Source: DR. JOHN ALLOTEY, PharmD