Success in healthcare requires more than clinical knowledge and technical skills. In high-touch healthcare environments where collaboration is critical, healthcare workers need to display essential skills. These skills make them more effective in working within a healthcare team ultimately helping patients achieve their health goals.
Essential soft skills—personal skills such as communication and professionalism—are often addressed in healthcare employer training programs. Although these skills aren’t as straightforward to teach as technical training, they are just as vital to any healthcare organization’s success. Everyone on the care team needs to understand and apply theses skills, communicating effectively to best engage with patients and their coworkers.
Download our infographic and read below to learn about five of the most critical essential soft skills needed for success in healthcare. In this article and the free infographic, you'll learn how healthcare employers can coach frontline healthcare workers to improve how they put them into practice.
5 Top Soft Skills for Success in the Healthcare Setting
1. Communication Skills
To many healthcare employers, it will come as no surprise that communication skills are among the most important skills in healthcare. Unfortunately, employers often say that communication skills are the weakest of all soft skills for frontline healthcare workers. Communication skills include verbal, non-verbal and written communication. It’s not just what you say (word choice), but also how you say it (demeanor, tone, eye contact, body language, etc.). Research suggests that effective communication — verbal and nonverbal — has a positive impact on patient satisfaction, adherence and actual health outcomes.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be defined as understanding of self and understanding of others. People with strong emotional intelligence have great self-awareness and can regulate their impulses and mood. They also have empathy toward others—including both patients and professional colleagues—and are able to react to their needs. Working on improving emotional intelligence can have a positive impact on patients, care teams and individual healthcare workers. A study published by the MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, found that by improving personal awareness, clinicians can improve quality of care and have a higher satisfaction with work, relationships and themselves.
You may think of teamwork as someone who is able to collaborate with co-workers. This is definitely a key part, but specifically in healthcare, individual attributes such as dependability, adaptability and respect also play a critical role in the success of a healthcare team. Healthcare workers with strong teamwork skills effectively manage their time, follow through with commitments and provide consistent quality of care. They earn and give respect to others (patients and colleagues). In an industry that is continually changing, team players accept and adapt to changes.
Healthcare workers who are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and take initiative to improve their skills. Because they continually work towards improvement, through goal-setting or investments in professional development for example, these individuals are capable to take on leadership roles and experience professional success.
When a patient enters a healthcare office, there are several factors that contribute to their ability to trust staff and ultimately, trust and adhere to any treatment plan prescribed. Starting with the very first interaction they have when they check in, it’s important that healthcare workers convey a professional demeanor. If they seem distracted, frustrated, unconfident or have a physically unprofessional appearance, it can contribute to a poor patient experience.
Coaching Frontline Healthcare Workers to Improve Soft Skills
Increasingly, soft skills training is being prioritized by healthcare providers because of its importance to patient satisfaction and care. Many healthcare employers now include a soft skills evaluation in their annual reviews. Training soft skills can be done in a variety of methods, including:
- In-person training
- Online training
- Role playing
- Case studies
- Guest speakers
- Personality assessment tests
Employers often consider role playing to be the most effective technique for teaching soft skills because it encourages practice in real-life situations. This can be done in person, or through new virtual simulation technology.
Through virtual simulation, healthcare workers can participate in role playing in a low-risk setting that provides real-time feedback that can help them build the necessary skills for better patient communication, education and engagement. This type of interaction can be used in place of or in combination with face-to-face role playing.
Soft skills may be harder to teach using traditional methods, but with the right training techniques in place, healthcare workers at every level can learn to be more effective communicators and improve personal qualities such as empathy, initiative and professionalism. By investing in improving frontline healthcare workers’ soft skills, the patient experience can be improved, and healthcare employees can feel like they are welcomed and supported members of the healthcare team.
What tools and resources are you using to coaching learners on soft skills? Learn more about NHA's PersonAbility™, a tool to build and apply essential soft skills for a better future in healthcare.
About the Author
Meg Sutton is a product manager in the innovation group at the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). In her role, Meg partners with key players throughout the healthcare value chain to create transformational products and solutions to advance the industry. Most recently, Mrs. Sutton has led research and development of a learning product that aims to bridge the essential skill(s) gap that is apparent in health care today.