Effective Communication In Health Professional-Client Relationship: A Case Study

Identifying the Major Challenges in the Case

Communication refers to the act of conveying relevant information and intended words to an individual or group of individuals through the efficient use of semiotic rules and signs that are understood by all. Thus, it can be defined as the process of receiving and sending messages by verbal and non-verbal means that includes oral communication or speech, signals, written skills and behavior (Adler, Rodman and DuPré 2016). Therefore, the term communication encompasses formulation and exchange of meaningful words.

It can further be explained as the symbolic process that produces, maintains, repairs and transforms reality. It is considered of extreme importance as an accurate convey of messages influences the effective action portrayed by the receiver. Thus, the sender and the receiver form two major entities of an effective communication (Kitapci, Akdogan and Dortyol 2014). This essay will illustrate the communication that took place between the internationally acclaimed holistic nutritionist Gillian McKeith with her clients Jane Henwood and her daughter Holly, by analyzing a video “You are what you eat”.

Identifying the major challenges in the case- The aforementioned video sheds light on communication between three entities, namely, the 42 year old client Jane Henwood, her 12 year old daughter Holly Henwood, and the nutritionist Gillian McKeith. An analysis of the video helps in concluding that both the mother and the daughter are suffering from serious weight problems and are obese. This can be attributed to the fact that they are involved in consuming convenience foods that can be heated in a microwave oven for fast consumption (Baši? et al. 2012). The mother Jane hates working in the kitchen, which makes her deprive her family with healthy food items and replace them with junk foods that have contributed significantly to their obesity (Ogden et al. 2012). The nutritionist Gillian comes across as a no-nonsense and self-confident person, who is able to establish a good rapport with her clients by engaging them in an effective interpersonal communication (Kitapci, Akdogan and Dortyol 2014).

This acted as a fundamental step in making them understand the health complications associated with the ill effects of the dietary pattern they followed. Jane Henwood, the client is depicted as an individual lacking the basic qualities of communication. This can be deduced by the fact that throughout the video, she is found replying only to the queries raised by the nutritionist. She fails to initiate the conversation with Gillian. A similar response is observed from Holly as well, who comes across as a shy and quite person and responds occasionally to the questions that Gillian raises regarding her meal patterns. The nutritionist Gillian adorns the role of an effective communicator as she utilizes all components that are necessary for engaging in a successful communication. She makes complete use of her skills and capabilities related to active listening, verbal and non-verbal techniques, appropriate demonstration of gestures and body language, silence, and empathy towards the mother-daughter duo.

Evaluation of the Case

Gillian appeared extremely sanguine and optimistic of the work she intended to pursue with respect to the feeding problems in her clients. Her self-assurance acted as a positive factor and helped her make rapid and accurate conclusions on their health status by making a closing observation. She utilized a plethora of interpersonal communication tools, with the aim of providing holistic solutions to her clients, thereby improving their health and overall wellbeing. Research evidences indicate that the process of diagnosing a health abnormality and determining its course of progression is facilitated by development of an effective positive healthcare professional-client relationship (Pawlikowska et al. 2012). The video shows that Gillian took all possible efforts to establish a good rapport with Jane and Holly, to facilitate the diagnosis of the health problems they were suffering from.

There are several barriers that result in failure of interpersonal communication (Hemsley, Balandin and Worrall 2012). Therefore, it was found that Gillian avoided the use of jargons and over-complicated terms while explaining the ill effects that a diet based on junk foods can have on the human body (Mira et al. 2014). Furthermore, she displayed an interest and showed attention in learning about the underlying factors that made Jane adapt herself and her family to the wrong food habits. This helped her clients understand the grave danger that they were predisposed to. Thus, it can be said that efficient communication between a healthcare professional and the client is crucial for accurately communicating critical information.

Evaluation of the case- The video clearly shows that Gillian demonstrated adequate verbal and non-verbal communication skills for explaining the health issues that were faced by her clients. The major health problem identified in the case scenario was overweight or obesity. It was mentioned at the beginning of the video that both Jane and her daughter Holly were unfit, fat and unhealthy. The holistic nutritionist Gillian McKeith was quick in recognizing dependence on packaged food as the primary cause that contributed to the health problems. Consumption of huge amounts of carbonated and fizzy drinks can be linked to the regular headaches that were faced by the clients. The presence of substantial amount of the diuretic caffeine in these drinks, contributes to dehydration, which in turn results in headache and other health complications. Negligible intake of fresh fruits and vegetables led to the lack of adequate nutrients and contributed to vitamin deficiency (Summerbell et al. 2012). The obesity problem got further aggravated due to consumption of a huge amount of carbonated drinks that added an equivalent of 82 teaspoons of sugar to the diet (Grimes et al. 2013).

Demonstration of Health Literacy

Successful communication between the care providers and the service users is regarded as of paramount importance as there is an ever-increasing demand of healthcare services. Gillian tried to determine the factors that might have contributed to the obesity. Upon her visit to the family, she tried to take a look at the food items present in the refrigerator to have an understanding of her client’s meal patterns. She recommended adequate intake of green vegetables, fresh fruits and home cooked meals to her clients on learning that they depended entirely on convenience foods. She also convinced her clients to give up their habit of fizzy drinks and adhere to a healthy lifestyle. Lifestyle interventions such as moderate exercises and dietary modifications have proved effective in bring about weight loss among obese patients. Thus, her recommendations were correct for the case scenario.

Demonstration of health literacy- Health literacy refers to the presence of appropriate knowledge, skills, and understanding among people on information related to health and social care (Cha et al. 2014). It also encompasses their access to healthcare services (Sørensen et al. 2015). In the case scenario, Jane and her family demonstrated lack of adequate health literacy that made them adopt a poor eating habit. This contributed to their obesity.

Limited health literacy is often associated with development of an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle that includes adherence to a poor diet (Sørensen et al. 2015). However, Gillian took all possible efforts to increase their health knowledge and encouraged positive lifestyle changes in them. Gillian was successful in empowering her clients for effectively managing the long term health complications associated with obesity by encouraging adaptation to positive lifestyle changes in them.

Thus, it can be stated that successful communication demonstrated by the nutritionist was able to make Jane realize the need for adhering to dietary modifications. The video initially suggested that Jane’s initial dislike for cooking meals for her family in her kitchen, made her family adapt to consumption of ready to eat food items. However, it could be determined that an engaging conversation with Gillian was successful in making Jane realize the importance of adopting a healthy eating habit.

Skills exhibited by Gillian- The use of active listening skills and empathy are responsible for stimulating a partner in conversation to feel wanted. It acts as a form of reassurance and makes the receiver believe that his/her concerns are being given the necessary importance (Weger et al. 2014). Gillian did not interrupt Jane or Holly while they were talking about their feeding habits. Instead, the former listened with empathy to each of their conversations and acknowledged their feelings by giving constant feedbacks. Cognitive empathy refers to the practice of putting oneself in someone else’s position and observing their perspectives. Gillian was well able to understand the reason why the Henwood family adapted a poor diet. In addition, eye contact is also considered as an essential form of non-verbal communication and plays an important role in influencing social behavior.

Facial expressions and eye contact help in providing important emotional and social information. The gaze of a person indicates the object on which attention lies (Elfenbein 2013). Throughout the video, Gillian was seen maintaining direct eye contact with her clients. This demonstrated her confidence and conviction and created a positive impact on the clients. Hug is also considered as an integral part of most societies and cultures and helps in boosting intimacy and empathy. Gillian was seen embracing Holly and Jane on seeing their compliance to the strict diet regime for 8 weeks. This acted as a major form of nonverbal communication that demonstrated an appreciation for the efforts that had been taken by the mother and daughter to adopt to a healthy lifestyle.

Further excellent verbal communication skills were expressed by Gillian when she asked about the number of times Holly suffered from headache and whether she ever had any fresh vegetables in her life. Questioning is an essential aspect of verbal communication and information exchange owing to the fact that it helps in building stronger relationship (Howard, Jacobson and Kripalani 2013). This acted as an essential technique of obtaining the exact information that would help Gillian during the decision making and problem solving process (Keyton et al. 2013). It also helped to explore the ideas and beliefs present ed by the family and clarify all kinds of doubts.

Furthermore, a person’s body language also acts as an essential form of non-verbal communication that helps in expressing or conveying relevant information (Dael, Mortillaro and Scherer 2012). Gillian’s facial expressions, gestures, touch and body posture always emphasized what she intended to day also did not show any sort of discrepancy in her behavior. She often used emblems such as ‘Okay’, and regulators such as short head nods that expressed her interest in helping her clients to cope with their health problem. Another major communication skill that acted in favor of the case was her quick response to Holly, when the latter complained of difficulty in eating the bland and boring salad recipes that Gillian had advised. The nutritionist immediately paid a visit to the family and made a customized salad dressing that would make it more palatable, while maintaining the nutrient value. Thus, it can be deduced that her only concern was not just restricted to making her clients stick to a strict diet pattern. She was equally concerned about taking efforts to make the suggested foods pleasant tasting.

Conclusion- Thus, it can be stated that effective communication forms an essential part of healthcare service delivery. However, there are certain barriers that create hindrances in such conversations. Elimination of these barriers is crucial for facilitating a healthy interaction between the carers and the clients. Some of the most common barriers that can create negative influences include, use of jargon, displaying a lack of interest, continuous distractions, and language differences. Differences exhibited in the viewpoint and perception and development of prejudices also result in stereotyping and false assumptions. In the aforementioned case scenario, Gillian did not demonstrate any such behavior that might act as a negative influence on the conversation she had with the Henwood family.

However, Holly came across as a passive person and hardly interacted about the problems she faced due to her overweight. On the other hand, her mother was too shocked at the revelations made on their health status by the nutritionist. She failed to demonstrate the urge to inquire about her health problems or the dietary modification that was being recommended. Thus, from the above discussion it can be concluded that although there were some initial barriers on the part of the clients, the nutritionist Gillian McKeith was able to demonstrate adequate communication skills that helped her make her clients realize the importance of adoption of a healthy lifestyle, which in turn enhanced their health and overall wellbeing. Effective communication skills demonstrated by Gillian increased client satisfaction in the long run.


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Cha, E., Kim, K.H., Lerner, H.M., Dawkins, C.R., Bello, M.K., Umpierrez, G. and Dunbar, S.B., 2014. Health literacy, self-efficacy, food label use, and diet in young adults. American journal of health behavior, 38(3), pp.331-339.

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