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Top 10 tips for interacting with colleagues from other specialties

Post date: 25/04/2016 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 18/05/2020

Professor Allan Gaw, from the National Institute for Health Research - Clinical Research Network, shares his advice on what to think about when interacting with other healthcare professionals

Modern medicine is all about teamwork – a multi-disciplinary, multi-professional affair. Making referrals, sharing information, retrieving results, discussing management – for all these essential aspects of patient care, and more, you'll need to interact with others. Of course, there are right ways and wrong ways to get things done. As a busy doctor, you need to use your time wisely and put your efforts where they'll be most effective.

  1. Don't underestimate people

    This is especially true of those whose jobs you don't fully understand. Do you know what an electrophysiologist does, a genetic counsellor... what about a clinical psychologist or a biomedical scientist? All these people, like you, are highly trained professionals with key roles to play in healthcare and you may have to communicate with them effectively to get the job done.

  2. Be clear

    Interactions are often about exchanging information. The clarity of that exchange usually determines the quality of the outcome. If it's hurried or muddled, the results can be poor and might involve you starting over, wasting your own time as well as that of other's.

  3. Don't waste people's time

    Be prepared for meetings and phone calls, have facts and figures ready and don't keep people waiting. Think how you would like to be treated if you were being consulted, and behave accordingly.

  4. Be civil

    Occasionally, you'll have to deal with defensive or apparently unhelpful people. This is sometimes because they've had a bad experience with the last junior doctor. Such prejudice is unfair, but you have to show them you're different – be polite, be professional and be appreciative of their help.

  5. Follow through

    If you say you're going to do something, do it.

  6. Be respectful

    You can't hope for respect unless you offer it. Respect means listening, being punctual, being prepared and above all treating people as you would wish to be treated.

  7. Keep it professional

    When discussing patients with others always follow the highest professional standards. If you're ever in doubt about what you should and shouldn't share, ask a senior colleague for advice.

  8. Recognise what you don't know

    You are not expected to know everything, and you should recognise that you never will. Appreciate your limitations and freely admit them to yourself and in your interactions. In short, it's alright to say “I don't know”.

  9. Don't be afraid to ask

    Remember, it's about teamwork and you should never think you're on your own. There are always people with more experience and different expertise who can help, if you ask.

  10. Keep the big picture in mind

Medicine can be hard and some days it can seem impossible. Relying on your own efforts is one thing, but when you have to chase others to get things done, while juggling a dozen other balls, it can seem daunting. Never forget what all the effort is for—the health and well-being of your patients.

Find out more

Book onto our Mastering Professional Interactions workshop which is designed to help you identify the risk factors related to professional interactions. It provides proven techniques and models to reduce risk and improve patient outcomes.

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