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Contributors: Kim Doerflinger, Antrea Dowd, Elizabeth Thompson, Julie Walters and Davene Yankle, MS-HSM, BSN, CCRN

Through improving interpersonal skills, healthcare professionals can learn to shape others’ impressions, helping to build trust among both employers and patients.

To healthcare professionals, it comes as no secret that one of the cornerstones of patient care is connection. In order to connect, clinicians must be able to communicate, verbally and nonverbally, in a way that uniquely recognizes each patient as an individual. Communication is key in the delivery of care and can have a tremendous impact on patient outcomes. Interpersonal skills, such as showing empathy, listening and taking time to explain recommendations, influence the likelihood for a patient to follow through on care plans and even the potential to successfully manage a chronic condition.

Interpersonal skills, sometimes referred to as “soft skills,” also play a factor in creating a strong “brand” in the eyes of the patient — it is a reflection of the health professional, the team and the organization. A brand is the impression people form based on experiences they have with you. In healthcare, brand is largely dependent on the strength of the healthcare worker’s interpersonal skills.

By strengthening interpersonal skills, you can influence your personal brand and the brand of the healthcare team.

“Interpersonal skills play a very important role in personal branding,” says Antrea Dowd, corporate director of education at Brookline College. “The ability of the healthcare professional to communicate and relate to the patient will impact the patient’s adherence to the treatment plan.”

Developing your brand becomes the core of your reputation, image and persona not only during a job interview, but also throughout your career. A strong personal brand can support your aspirations as well as the success of any organization for which you work.

Further, by honing certain soft skills, a positive bedside manner, and emotional intelligence, you can become an indispensable part of the healthcare community. When patients view you favorably, believing that you are a skilled healthcare professional based on their experiences with you, your personal brand continues to grow as a trusted source for care.

Using your personal brand to elevate your healthcare career

Intentionally focusing on building your personal brand requires you to reflect on how others may perceive you:

  Do you give off calming and comforting feelings?

  Are you a problem solver with impeccable timing?

  Do you command respect? 

If you think others’ view you differently than how you want to be perceived, it might be time to reinvest in your development. The process of personal branding can be used to make positive change to help you achieve your career goals, life goals and much more.

As a healthcare professional, your personal brand needs to be dynamic, reflecting personal and organizational values. If your personal brand doesn’t fit with the culture of a certain hospital, medical office or laboratory, for instance, you will likely have a hard time advancing there.

In healthcare, your personal brand is one way to set yourself apart from the crowd and show that you are a valuable asset to an organization. “It sums up the overall emotional impression of an individual’s fit within the organization or industry,” says Julie Walters, director of academic operations, ground campuses at The College of Health Care Professions.

“Technical skills, critical thinking skills, bedside manner, focus on quality, assertiveness and interpersonal skills (professional and social environments), are all part of what makes up the personal brand of a healthcare worker,” she adds.

“In the healthcare field, your personal brand not only helps you develop your professional reputation, but also articulates the value you bring to the people you serve, i.e., the patients,” says Davene Yankle, MS-HSM, BSN, CCRN of OhioHealth.

“A healthcare professional’s brand is very important,” says Dowd. “A patient will judge the medical facility based on the appearance and behavior of the professional. Healthcare professionals must understand that once they put on the uniform, there is a certain expectation for the level of professionalism.”

In addition to your unique skillset and story, your appearance, behavior and language also encompass your personal brand. Dowd points out the importance of being mindful of your online presence as well.

Interpersonal skills shape an effective personal brand

When preparing to enter the workforce, it’s important to consider what both patients and employers need and expect. “Most employers agree that soft skills are just as important as technical skills,” Walters says. “In healthcare, soft skills are critical to success because you are engaged with the personal aspects of an individual’s health. Compassion and listening skills are very important.”

Kim Doerflinger, allied health program director at Southeastern Institute–Charlotte, agrees, adding,
“There are so many factors that can be incorporated in an individual’s personal brand, such as professionalism, work ethic, competencies, credibility and confidence…[but] interpersonal skills are number one…An individual’s ability to effectively communicate, actively listen, work in a team, show empathy and resolve conflict are all key areas to build upon to develop their personal brand to the professional level the healthcare industry needs in order to provide quality customer service to patients.”

Your brand is essentially the organization’s brand

In practice, allied health professionals are often the first employees that a patient connects to the larger organization and, as such, their personal brand impacts that of the organization. As noted by Elizabeth Thompson, service line administrator with IU Health, Southern Indiana Physicians: “How [healthcare professionals] are perceived by patients and other customers is ultimately how the organization they work for is perceived. One individual’s interaction with a customer will impact an opinion, positive or negative. They essentially ARE the brand of the organization.”

How employers and schools are teaching and measuring interpersonal skills

When displaying your personal brand, your motivations, values and character should all shine through. In addition to your technical skills, your interpersonal skills, appearance, online presence, goals and passions all play an important role. However, the interpersonal skills that are a crucial part of this package can be difficult to assess objectively.

Some institutions use assessment software designed to identify soft skills during the interview process. Once hired, companies are helping their healthcare employees build interpersonal skills and develop their brand through targeted continuing education and coaching.

Some of the more innovative schools use a variety of training methods, including standardized patients, or individuals trained to act as a real patient and portray situations healthcare providers may see once in the field. Along with helping them practice clinical skills, standardized patients provide feedback on the learner’s interpersonal skills, including empathy.

Ultimately, interpersonal skills set healthcare professionals apart, and those with the strongest skills are not only the most sought-after by employers, but also the most equipped to deliver the kind of care patients want and need. If your future is in healthcare, this is the time to consider what your personal brand says about you now and what you want it to say about you in the future.

Interpersonal Communication Skills Self-Assessment

Take time to reflect on your skills. Below, you’ll find the interpersonal communication skills
that employers believe are most valuable. Rate yourself on your performance of these skills
from 1 to 5, with 1 being “needs improvement” and 5 being “always excellent.”

This worksheet is for your own use, so be honest with yourself. The best way to improve a skill is recognizing that you have room to grow and then taking action. Keep this self-assessment handy so you can return to it over time to reflect on your progress and make new plans for further improvement.

Putting it into practice

Interpersonal Skills Self-Assessment Worksheet


Take time to reflect on your skills. Below, you’ll find the interpersonal communication skills that employers believe are most valuable. Rate yourself on your performance of these skills from 1 to 5, with 1 being “needs improvement” and 5 being “always excellent.”

This worksheet is for your own use, so be honest with yourself. The best way to improve a skill is recognizing that you have room to grow and then taking action. Keep this self-assessment handy so you can return to it over time to reflect on your progress and make new plans for further improvement.Download Self-Assessment

 

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