How to make friends and influence people: physician to physician communication in the age of enlightenment
Dr Michael Lucas PhD MBBS MOccHS LFOM(RCPI) FRACGP FAFOEM(RACP) CIME(ABIME)
Following a recent Independent Medical Examiner (IME) review of a motor vehicle injury claimant, on my desk this month a written communication from a fellow Consultant Physician arrived. The letter commenced:
Dear Dr, I gather you are in the minority of flat earth society doctors who still believe (specified condition) does not exist…
Thereafter followed a collection of justifying comments and derogatory insinuations supporting the author’s opinion, concluding with the statement Enjoy your Homework
. Clearly the author was of the opinion that I had much to learn.
While certainly capturing my attention, I did wonder if the content and tone of such a physician-to-physician communication was truly reflective of the expected benchmark for this day and age, or whether there perhaps remains room for us to remind ourselves of the importance of our inter-colleague interaction skills.
The importance of communication skills for doctors is well established, and considerable efforts have been made to improve such skills. Poor communication between doctors has been cited as being at the heart of many complaints, claims, and disciplinary actions.
A recent British Medical Journal article (Davies, 2015) explained the importance of maintaining good relationships with colleagues and communicating effectively with other health professionals.
I recall an article in the Physician Executive Journal (Shannon, 2012) some time back highlighting issues in relation to effective communication among health care providers. Limitations in training in medical school and residency to communicate well with people were noted and insufficient emphasis in our training on taking the time to write a really good letter was suggested. The author suggested in our role as key decision-makers and influencers of organisational culture, senior physicians play a critical role in fostering greater care coordination by improving physician-to-physician communications.
When clinical opinions differ, it is perhaps even more important to bear in mind we should treat colleagues with respect and dignity. A comment in Physicians Practice (Jacques, 2015) suggests, perhaps wisely,: No matter how we choose to communicate – whether it's on the phone, in an e-mail, or via text –view every single message delivered as a piece of formal correspondence that will live on in perpetuity. The last thing we should want is for a casual, off-the-cuff comment to resurface in the wrong place with the wrong people at the wrong time.
A commitment to preserve the integrity of our professional relationships should underlie the tone of every digital and personal conversation we have and sets us apart as respected professionals.
Dr Lucas is an Occupational Physician, Medical Director at NextHealth Specialist Group, Interim RACP Western Australian Committee Chair and State Representative on the RACP College Council
Davies M and Dinwoodle M (2015) Communicating with colleagues BMJ Careers
Jacques, S (2015) Communicate Effectively with Medical Colleagues
, Physicians Practice
April 01, 2015
Shannon, D. (2012) Effective Physician to Physician Communication: An Essential Ingredient for Care Coordination Physician Executive Journal
Introducing the new Western Australian State Committee
The election of representatives on the Western Australian State Committee 2016–2018 term has concluded. The members of the committee are:
- Dr Rhagu Dharmapuri
- Dr Angela Graves
- Dr Meg Henze
- Associate Professor Venkata Kodali
- Dr Michael Lucas
- Dr Baskar Mandal
- Dr Anthony Milius
- Dr Stephen Richards
- Associate Professor Euan Thompson
- Dr Ian Wilson
- Professor Charles Watson
The State Committee can be contacted at email@example.com
Western Australia RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence – applications closing soon
The annual RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence identifies and acknowledges the best trainee research presentations in the fields of adult medicine and paediatric medicine.
Two representatives, one in the field of adult medicine and one in the field of paediatric medicine, will be selected to present their research in Melbourne in May 2017.
Abstracts for the Western Australia regional competition close Friday, 9 September. Trainees from all Divisions, Faculties and Chapters are eligible to apply.
This is an excellent opportunity for trainee representatives to present their ideas and research in a professional and public setting.
The RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence are funded from donations received from Fellows and trainees.
All members are invited to attend the South Australia competition which will be held on the following dates.
In the field of paediatric medicine
Venue: Princess Margaret Hospital McDonalds Lecture Theatre Level 2, Administration Building Roberts Road, Subiaco
Date: Thursday, 6 October 2016
Time: 12pm to 2.30pm
In the field of adult medicine
Venue: RACP WA, 1-3, 24 Leura Street Nedlands
Date: Thursday, 13 October 2016
Time: 5.30pm to 7.30pm
These events attract 1 CPD credit per hour for attendance for Fellows.
Go to the RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence page for more information, including abstract submission information.
Save the date – Advanced Trainee Orientation evening, Thursday, 20 October
The third annual Advanced Trainee Orientation evening , organised by the Western Australian College Trainees Committee, will provide an overview of the Advanced Trainee program and experience from those actually going through the program.
Staff from the RACP WA Office will also be available to answer any questions.
Program details will be made available closer to the date.
Venue: Harry Perkins Research Institute, QE2 Medical Campus
Date: Thursday, 20 October 2016
Save the date – WA Rural Physicians’ Workshop, Saturday, 26 and Sunday, 27 November
The fifth annual Rural Physicians’ Workshop will be held at the RACP WA office on Saturday, 26 and Sunday, 27 November 2016.
The program, designed specifically for rural physicians and those with an interest in rural medicine, will include presentations on a range of topics including:
- respiratory medicine
- a review of important journal articles from 2016.
Contact program coordinator Dr Lydia Scott at Lydia.firstname.lastname@example.org for topic suggestions, or if you would like to present.
This continuing professional development and networking opportunity will also include a dinner on the Saturday evening.
Please contact Angela Phillips at email@example.com or on +61 8 6382 0821 for more information.
Registration details will be available closer to the date.
Expressions of Interest
EOI: Western Australia Clinical Senate membership nominations – three year term, closes 29 August
Nominations are being accepted for the Western Australia Clinical Senate.
Established in 2003, the Clinical Senate has developed a unique role within health in Western Australia.
It brings together the intelligence of more than 75 clinicians from across Western Australia to:
- debate issues of importance in health in WA
- develop recommendations through the debates
- inform the Director General and Health Service Boards.
Ideally, the nominated clinician(s) will have a strong commitment to health care reform and a genuine desire to contribute to the development of clinical planning and policy setting for the Western Australian health system.
Please be aware that the deliberations of the Senate are expected to be above the agenda of the background discipline or organisational allegiance of the Senator. Decisions will be made, where possible, with the support of evidence presented to all members of the Senate, with debate on a non-representational basis.
While Senators are nominated by various groups, membership is considered to be non-representational (i.e. decisions will be made in the best interest of the health system as a whole, rather than sectional or vested interest. Corporate interest of the health system is above sectional interest, with decision-making based largely on a consensus approach).
Interested Fellows should forward a cover letter and CV to Barbara.O'Neill@health.wa.gov.au
by COB Monday, 29 August.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians publishes notices of events and courses as a service to members. Such publication does not constitute endorsement or mandating of any such events or courses.
Children and Nature Conference a first for WA
Nature Play WA’s inaugural Children and Nature Conference comes to Fremantle this August with some of the world’s pre-eminent speakers on the impact of nature on children’s health, development and education presenting at the packed-program one-day event.
Venue: The Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle
Date: Sunday, August 28
Cost: $240 for full registration, student concession: $192
Registration: For more information and to register visit the Nature Play WA website.