Communication skills in paediatrics

The medical care of children is perhaps unique in the extent to which it relies on collaboration with the family. When considering a treatment plan for children, paediatricians take it for granted that the child’s parents will always be available to the child, that they will usually have the child’s best interests at heart, and that they will be able to work alongside medical and nursing staff. In effect, parents are expected to be colleagues with the paediatric team.

If this collegiate relationship is going to work safely and effectively, it is essential that families feel both confident and competent. It is the aim of communication with patients and their families to facilitate this, both by imparting information and by encouraging confidence. In many conditions, particularly those that persist for many years, families will come to see themselves as experts not only in their individual child, but also their child’s condition. At the time of diagnosis, however, it is important to be able to impart not only facts, but an understanding of them, in an effective manner.
Factors that can make this more difficult include prior understandings (and misunderstandings), emotional coping mechanisms such as denial, and simple differences in the way information is given and received, such as vocabulary. It can be complicated by difficulty in remembering information. Devices for helping memory, such as audio recordings, diagrams or hand-written notes, are all important.

Continued in the course handbook


This section includes copies of powerpoints and cases for discussion for you to use in teaching.