Team Communication Skills

An important part of the Flying Start NHS® programme is developing the right communication skills to be an effective team member, and this unit is designed to help you to play your part in the healthcare team.

Team communication skills - PDP

Review your NHS KSF foundation post outline and clarify the broad areas you need to achieve in relation to communication during your first year. With your mentor/KSF reviewer, discuss the specific expectations and standards around team communication skills in your clinical team/work setting. Identify and agree the priorities for you to work towards over the next three months. These should be reflected in your Personal Development Plan.

It is suggested that you repeat this activity every three months.

Team communication

This activity asks you to reflect on how the team you work in communicates effectively. If your role rotates in your first year of practice, it would be useful to repeat this activity when you join a new team or move to another work setting. Alternatively, you may want to repeat this activity in the same setting further into your first year.

Choose an example of a team meeting you have participated in, for example, a ward round, handover or multidisciplinary meeting and:

  • reflect on the strengths you observed in the team's processes and relationships.
  • identify any areas of team communication that you think could be improved.

Team roles

Belbin has produced a model for understanding how teams work. It is one of many models, but is one that you are likely to be familiar with from university.

Further information on this is available in the Teamwork unit of this resource.  You can access a useful summary of Team Roles on the Belbin website.

Reflect on your role within the team and that of others, and select a real example from your area of practice where team communication was vital for effective patient/client care:

  • note what worked well and where there were challenges
  • what role did different team members adopt?
  • using this information and your knowledge of the team and your work setting, how can you ensure that communication is and team working are as effective as possible in a similar situation in future?

Communication challenges for teams

There are a number of organisational challenges to effective team communication that you may have encountered as a student and are likely to encounter again in your first year as a newly qualified practitioner. However, you will be much more exposed to these as a registered practitioner.

Challenges include:

  • lack of time
  • pressure of work
  • performance of role affected by interruptions
  • lack of organisational commitment to supporting regular team debriefing or evaluation of how the team is working

In relation to your current work setting identify:

  • how other team members cope with these pressures e.g. time and workload
  • how the team hold on to the importance of effective team working skills
  • the team communication skills that could help minimise the impact of these pressures
  • how you can monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your contribution to team communication?
  • how you can monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the contribution of other team members?
  • where you can raise suggestions that might improve team communication?  This could relate to organisational or individual factors

Equality, diversity and communication

You will cover a wide range issues in the Equality and Diversity section of this unit, however it is useful to think about equality, diversity and communication here.

Ensuring effective and appropriate communication is a central to ensuring that you incorporate the principles of equality and diversity into your practice and to providing safe, effective and person centred care.

Think about the people you communicate with each day (patients/clients and colleagues). What barriers can you identify that would prevent communication from being effective? For example, in relation to:

  • language, where a person's first language is not English
  • using appropriate language/ terms
  • hearing or vision problems
  • literacy
  • dyslexia
  • speech difficulties

Identify situations where these barriers can occur and plan how you would deal with them. What resources are available to help in these situations?

The following resources will be useful in this activity:

The activities in the Equality and Diversity section of Flying Start NHS® will also provide you with information and support your practice in this area.

Team communication scenarios

From the following 4 scenarios, select 1 or 2 that reflect your work setting.  

When completing these activities, you will need to consider Equality and Diversity and patients and patient/client rights in these clinical situations.

Alternatively, you may want to use 1 or 2 of the 'Who cares?' video clips from The Little Things Make a Big Difference: Valuing People resource. Once you have watched the video clip, note down your reaction to the characters, and how you would have reacted in their places.

Work through these to develop your understanding of team communication.  You might find it useful to discuss your responses with your mentor and/or other healthcare practitioner.

The information you gathered in the 'Equality, diversity and communication' activity will be useful to you when you are competing this activity.

Scenario 1
A patient/client is discharged from hospital. No follow-up appointments or any other appropriate referrals have been made. Your assessment indicates that the patient/client should have been followed up.

If you were working in a primary care team:

  • how might you approach the hospital staff in order to highlight the difficulties this has caused for the patient/client, their carers and the primary care healthcare team?
  • what actions do you need to take to ensure that this patient/client is followed up appropriately?
  • what suggestions for improvement might you make?

Scenario 2
You are working in a clinic during a group session. A member of the multidisciplinary team has distributed information leaflets to the patients/clients attending the clinic and is reading through the information with them. You notice one patient/client who appears to be having difficulty following the written information and are concerned that he will not be able to follow the advice when he gets home.

  • what action will you take immediately?
  • how might you approach the other members of the team highlight the difficulties you think the patient/client may be having?
  • what are some possible reasons for this difficulty?
  • what suggestions for improvement might you make for future group sessions?
  • who else might you want to involve?

Scenario 3
You are caring for a patient/client whose speech has been badly affected by their health problem.  Because you have been working with her for a number of weeks, you are familiar with her speech pattern and can communicate effectively with her.  She confides in you that she is getting increasingly frustrated with the other members of staff involved in her care, as the majority of them do not appear to understand what she is saying and this has affected her care.

  • how might you approach the other members of the team to highlight the difficulties this is causing for the patient/client?
  • what suggestions for improvement might you make?
  • how can you involve the patient/client in making these improvements?

You might find The Make Communication Even Better 'Vision Statements' useful in this activity.

Scenario 4
You have become involved in the care of a lady who has recently emigrated, with her extended family, to the UK. On doing a home assessment, you note that she has two children under school age and is also caring for an elderly relative.  None of the family speaks English, other than at a very basic level. You are concerned about the lady's ability to access appropriate health services.

  • how can you communicate your concerns and make the rest of the healthcare team aware of these difficulties?
  • what suggestions for improvement might you make?
  • what resources are available that might be useful in situations like this?

As with all of your work, you need to incorporate the principles of equality and diversity and the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011 factsheets into your practice.  You might want to review what you have learned about these issues in the Flying Start NHS® Equality and Diversity unit.

Make an entry in your portfolio so that, should you encounter such situations, you can refer to it.

Catch My Eye

This resource captures a situation we are all familiar with - trying to catch the attention of someone who we need to communicate with but with no success. You may have experienced this when you have been the recipient of healthcare, or in other work or social settings.

Listen to or read the script of the 'Catch My Eye' play. It explores the experience, often reported by visitors to hospital, of trying to find a knowledgeable member of staff from whom they can get information about their loved one.

One woman, when describing her failed attempts to catch the attention of staff, summed up her bewilderment by asking "are they trained not to look?"

Reflect on what you have read or heard, putting yourself in the place of Maria who is anxious about her mum, and the member of staff.  Critically explore how you may sometimes avoid contact with patients/clients and how you can be aware of your actions in similar situations.

Record your reflections and add these to your portfolio.

Portfolio – team communication skills

Having worked through a selection of the activities in this section, you should summarise your learning, highlighting how this may affect your future practice.  You can share your findings with your mentor.

Add an alert to your Flying Start NHS® portfolio and /or make a date in your diary to revisit Team Communication Skills.