The power of positive communication - how to ask for help

When you're managing a complex medical condition, you will often have long term interactions with medical professionals and in particular hospital staff. You can build positive, respectful relationships and encourage greater information sharing and assistance by using positive communication and body language. Interacting in a positive way will also assist to reduce your stress levels and feelings of anxiety.

Keep the following tips in mind when interacting with your medical professionals and hospital staff:

  • Smile often, even if you don’t feel like it,
  • Face your body towards the people speaking to you, and look them in the face,
  • Stand up if they are standing up and put yourself on their level,
  • Be mindful in your responses,
  • Stay on the topic and ask relevant questions to avoid taking up too much time,
  • Keep the language positive and avoid - don’ts, no, can’t, etc,
  • Respond to all comments and acknowledge what has been said by repeating back to them,
  • Thank those who speak to you and for taking the time to help you,
  • Start a conversation with a smile and end the conversation with a smile, especially when you don’t feel like it.

Tip #1:

Try not to interrupt. If the person you want to speak to is engaged in another conversation or is with another patient, wait until they have finished their conversation or task, or ask another nurse sitting at the nurses station. If they are having a social chat with another staff member, politely excuse yourself with a smile and an apology for interrupting.

Tip #2:

Be conscious of how much time you are demanding from nurses or surgeons. Keep a limit on the amount of time you taking up by staying on topic and ask all your questions at once.

Tip #3:

The time to ask the technical questions is before the surgery, but if something comes up you want to know more about ask your nurse. If your questions are technical the nurse will check with the surgeon to give you the correct answer. This can take a while for various reasons - the surgeon could be difficult to get hold of because they often consult in other hospitals, or they could be in surgery most of the day. Be patient, the nurse should be able to give you rough estimate of when they can get an answer for you.

Tip #4:

Making assumptions and acting on them can cause problems and unsettle the nursing staff. Always ask permission before you do anything, you want to be seen as helpful not a hindrance.

Tip #5:

Once you have the attention of the nurse or surgeon, listen attentively to their answer. This means waiting until they have finished their sentences before asking your next question. Try not to speak over the top of someone or interrupt their answer, this is not only impolite but it will give that person the impression you are not really interested in their answer, but are seeking attention and wasting their time. The next time they might avoid you instead of trying to help.

Nurses and surgeons will appreciate good manners, that you waited patiently and that you took some initiative to do some small things for yourself.