Patient Communication

February 10, 2016

Patient communication

Image coutesy of Stockimages via

Does this title mean communication with patients or communication with patience? Maybe both. Yes, definitely both because when communicating with some patients you do have to exhibit tolerance, fortitude, serenity, forbearance, imperturbability and placidity (thank you to British lexicographer, Peter Mark Roget for that list).

Of course, dentists have the best idea when it comes to communicating with patients – stick you fingers in their mouth and ask them questions knowing they can only reply with a slightly strangled ugh!

For dental nurses and other clinicians, the GDC’s Preparing for practice dental team learning outcomes for registration, requires you to: ‘Communicate appropriately, effectively and sensitively by spoken, written and electronic methods and maintain and develop these skills.’

You must also: ‘Recognise the use of a range of communication methods and technologies and their appropriate application in support of clinical practice’ – for which statement readers are pointed in the direction of the NHS document: Learning to Manage Health Information. From which we gain this pearl of wisdom:

To support all forms of communication, clinicians will need to be comfortable using a range of different technologies and to understand which might be appropriate to a particular communication, e.g. email, mobile phones/SMS, online meetings, live messenger and videoconferencing, and increasingly social networks, for example LinkedIn and Facebook. At the same time, they must be aware of requirements for sensitive and secure data handling.

Excuse me, but I call this an SBO – a statement of the bleeding obvious.


What about receptionists?

Quite! The most important communicators of all are given no guidance. Except by me – read on.


What the Barney Rubble?

To develop your communication skills, you’ll need to do more than just read this blog. Here, I merely have space to signpost your direction of travel (aka tell you what to do).

Write neuro-linguistic programming on the back of your hand (NLP, is you have small hands). NLP offers techniques for improved communication. Read about it or watch a YouTube video (you don’t need a full-blown NLP course) to understand the basics. Learn that what you say ain’t half as important as what you do (and the person with whom you’re communicating – or attempting to – does). Eye contact, hand gestures, body position, personal space are some essentials of good communication.

Then there’s listening – vital, vital, vital. By listening, you can usually paraphrase what the other person says and turn on it’s head the emotion the patient is expressing (anger, nervousness, frustration and so on).

In due course, you’ll achieve RAPPORT – the NLP equivalent of winning The Lottery, appearing on Britain’s Got Talent and attending one of my courses all in the same week.

Now download Peoplewatching: The Desmond Morris Guide to Body Language on your Kindle and upload Effective Communication and Influence in Dentistry ( to your iPad.


If you enjoyed reading this blog, tell me, tell a friend and tell everybody you know on social media.

More soon, Nicki x