Future Leaders Communiqué Volume 6 Issue 4 October 2021
Download PDF: FL Communiqué October 2021
Case: Prioritising Closure and disclosure
Expert Commentary: Agility in clinical communication: a critical lifelong learning for all doctors
Expert Commentary: The ethics of clinician accountability in healthcare practice
Insights from Mr W’s family about how his care could have been improved
Comments From Our Peers
Welcome to the latest edition of the Future Leaders Communiqué. In this edition, we present a coronial investigation into the death of an elderly Indigenous man in hospital following a surgical procedure. The case raises important issues around communication. It allows us to reflect on how we as clinicians communicate, both with patients and their families.
Our guest editor for this edition is Dr Emily Lin a keen advocate for junior medical staff support, and wellbeing. Emily is a Basic Physician Trainee with a clinical interest in rheumatology and is currently working in Melbourne, Victoria. Emily is passionate about communication and the huge role it plays in the safe practice of clinical medicine. In her own words, ‘I distinctly recall thinking that communication was one of my greatest weaknesses prior to commencing medical school, and although I will not claim to be a great communicator now, I do recognise and respect the importance of timely and appropriate communication and do my best to incorporate it in my daily practice.’
How we as clinicians communicate with patients is too often framed from our own perspective. We can all too easily reduce these patient interactions to simple transactions – we receive information, interpret it, and provide recommendations on further care. "Shared decision-making" subsequently becomes a short list of options we deem appropriate for the patient to consider. This over-simplification of our role, and our responsibility to the patient, fails to acknowledge and respect the patient’s perspective. True shared decision-making comes with the understanding that we can learn from our patients, that acknowledging their experiences and respecting their values will allow us to provide the best quality care to them. Intrinsic to this is providing our patients the opportunity to involve those close to them to be their supports and advocates.
In the coronial case discussed in this edition, it is clear that this opportunity was at times lost. Communication with the patient, Mr W, and his family was highlighted as a key theme by the coroner in their findings. In their grief, Mr W’s family felt that their voice had not been heard at important junctures in Mr W’s care. The coronial investigation provided the family an opportunity to articulate what lessons they believed clinicians could learn from the death of Mr W. His family provided a list of their insights on how Mr W’s care could have been improved to the coroner, which was duly published along with the findings of the investigation.
Clinical communication is a skill that we are all constantly developing and improving. Fundamental to this is how to listen to and learn from our patients and their families. We have much to learn from the lessons articulated by the family of Mr W. We are proud of what this edition of the Future Leaders Communiqué adds as a resource in the pursuit of better communication, and hope that you find it of value in your ongoing learning.