Leadership insight #18 / 2022: Communicating effectively when people are vulnerable

8 December 2022

Working with vulnerability in healthcare is such an obvious issue. Of course, patients and their families often feel vulnerable as they navigate the health system. But what about in our leadership work with colleagues? Our colleagues, both peers and superiors  can be vulnerable at work too – not because they are patients or dealing with a health issue per se, but because we can all be navigating emotionally difficult and stressful events at work on a daily and weekly basis. As the year comes to a close, many people are reflecting that it has been another tough year. Another year coloured by the extra demands of a continuing pandemic – a year in which we have had to re-establish a way of living and working that is part ‘going back to normal’ and part fundamentally changed’. Many people speak about continuing to feel exhausted and depleted at work as a they re-join and rebuild workforces and communities that are depleted and stretched.

Communicating with vulnerable people amplifies our need to pay attention to the fundamentals of communication to create psychological safety. It can be useful to remind ourselves of these fundamentals. The list below looks at some of these – bringing attention to what knowledge and skills we can hold in mind as we talk with our colleagues, especially around sensitive issues and difficult times.    

We do so much of our work together in these small conversations. These professional conversations are the stuff of relationship and culture building. Of strong collaborative and caring teams. We don’t get to create culture any other way – it’s absolutely a collection of our small and everyday actions.

Communication skills are a core part of our leadership development programs at AMA Victoria, both in the Emerging Leader, and Middle Leader, professional development programs. This year we have launched a short course in communication skills – Communication Skills for Delivering Effective Healthcare. Email us for more information at careersadvisor@amavic.com.au. More information coming soon.

Dr Anna Clark (PhD)
Dr Anna Clark is AMAVs Leadership consultant, coach and educator, currently offering individual coaching for doctors and directing the AMA’s professional development programs in leadership, the Emerging Leader Program and Middle Leader Program.

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