Face-to-face: What you say

Last updated: Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Despite everything we’ve said on the previous pages about the importance of body language and the use of your voice, most of the rest of your career will focus on acquiring knowledge so that you know  what to say and ask during professional interactions. Every clinical tutorial on this learning portal has a list of suggested questions to ask in the 'Your practice' sections. There are also some general questions to ask when problem solving.

So, here we will offer just a few simple messages about content of conversations:

It’s always important to introduce yourself properly. Say who you are and what you do. You should do this on the phone as well as in person. If you forget to do it at the beginning of a conversation, then it's ok to add it in later: "Oh, I'm Murat Shah, by the way, the pharmacist on this ward."

When talking to patients or their carers about their medicines, try to put yourself in the other person's position. What do they really need to know and why? In other tutorials, we offer a suggested practical approach to advising patients about adverse reactions and about interactions. Can you back up your counselling with some written material to provide further information or as a reminder for the patient? The eMC website has patient information leaflets, and the NHS website has good quality healthcare advice for patients.

If you find yourself giving a colleague or a patient a great deal of information all at once, then consider offering them something in writing, such as a follow-up e-mail maybe.

Try to avoid harsh criticism of others, even if they’ve made a mistake. The key thing is often to explain your thinking, and get your colleague to correct their error and learn from it. You can use phrases such as:

  • “We wouldn't normally prescribe this medicine in someone with renal failure because it causes sedation. If you look at the Trust policy you'll see that X is our first line choice because it's so much safer, particularly in an elderly patient like Mrs Papadakis..."
  • “It would be helpful if you completed a critical incident report for this, to help others learn from the event and try to prevent it from happening in the future”

At the end of a conversation, repeat and emphasise your two or three most important points: “I know I’ve given you a lot of information, but the most important things to remember are: you have to take the medicine twice every day, and if you get a sore throat, you must see a doctor immediately." Or another example: "So you're happy to give the lecture, I'll organise the tutorial, and we'll meet again on Wednesday at three o'clock."

Conclude your conversation with an invitation to help in the future.

  • “If you need anything else then I’m on bleep 4466.”
  • “You can phone our patient helpline if you think of any other questions when you get home.”

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