Communication is defined as a process of exchanging information, ideas and thoughts between an organization, individuals or group of individuals using spoken and/or written words or through the use of some other medium such as visual images. Communication is a very vital factor to develop and strengthen teamwork. Rhythm and harmony in a laboratory are obtained if there are communication and teamwork between the scientist, doctors and other medical personnel. Communication is a key function of management because it makes cooperative action possible 1. For an organization such as ACT Pathology, a good communication and information flow is essential to ensure faster and proper delivery of laboratory services. Development of effective communication skills of each laboratory staff will contribute to overall teamwork 2.
In ACT Pathology- Calvary Public, there are different means of communication which is summarised in Table 1. The trick to effective communication is by choosing the most appropriate method in which the message will be delivered effectively.
1. Verbal Communication
The most simple, common and effective way of communication is by spoken words. It is a simple way to directly communicate with individuals and it is more of a personal approach. It very useful for relying on urgent messages or information 3. Verbal communication occurs daily at ACT Pathology between individuals inside and outside the laboratory. Verbal communication, for example, occurs when (1) Scientist phones the doctors and/or nurses to rely critical patient test result or specimen collectors if the specimen received is unsuitable and needs recollection, (2) scientist needs to endorse to another scientist at the end of the shift, (3) Monthly and weekly staff meetings and (4) competency trainings.
This type of communication becomes crucial in a situation such as the delivery of critical results through phone calls. In this situation, the message should be clear and concise to ensure that the result is delivered properly because this could affect the patient. Language is one of the barriers in this type of communication especially in the medical environment, which is why using shorthand medical terminology is avoided because other health healthcare professionals may not understand them.
2. Written words
The basic means of communication in the laboratory is through written words, it is readily available, easily accessible and permanent. In ACT Pathology, this means of communication is used for (1) announcements that are given through memos and letters that are posted on the notice board, and also sent via email which needs to be acknowledge by the recipient (2) endorsement in the communication book of each section of the laboratory, (3) minutes of meetings during weekly/section/ monthly meetings which are distributed to staffs by email. (4) filing of incident reports for documentation and monitoring. Communication through written words becomes crucial if it involves the patient privacy and important documents, which is why it is important to monitor the exchange of information through controlled documentation.
3. Visual Images
Another way to present information is through a visual presentation of images, posters and videos. With the advanced technology, this means of communications make it more interesting and easier to retain the information for example during staff training, video presentation makes it more easy and enjoyable for the trainers and trainees. A perfect example of a visual presentation is shown in Figure 1, it is a visual instruction on how to process blood gases in the analyser. It is a combination of a written and visual instruction that is very useful for a scientist to use as a guide to avoid errors and standardize the process. In morphology, cell differentiation is difficult and the best way present information is through images, this way comparison between normal and abnormal cells is made easier.
Figure 1. Instruction on how to process both venous and arterial blood gas samples.
A placement student is acknowledged as part of the team at ACT Pathology, effective communication is a key factor for developing teamwork and good working environment. As a student, effective teamwork skills are developed by first learning to clearly communicate with everyone on the team on intellectual and emotional levels. Communicate by sharing your ideas, listening carefully to instructions and advice, asking questions to clarify unclear instructions and if in doubt 4. Even if the task given to a student is minimal, it is with a great importance to take responsibility for the work assigned to you and to fulfil your role as part of the team. Make sure that the task is perfectly done and that you give your very best to contribute and give a helping hand to everyone on the team. Everyone in the laboratory shared one goal and that is to deliver a quality result to patients and everyone does their very best to achieve this goal; this is called teamwork. Constructive criticism also contributes to learning, as a student, it is beneficial to get positive and even negative feedback from trainers, always be professional in receiving feedbacks and think of the benefits of hearing these feedbacks rather than being worked up by emotions.