Attendant upon my transition into the role of Mental Health Staff Nurse, I have devised the following reflective model-to-action plan for the formulation of workable communication skills. Realizing that "…all healthcare professionals require a reasonable level of numeracy for the safe administration of medicines and fluids, budgeting, and the interpretation of statistics,"
(http://learntech.uwe.ac.uk/numeracy 2011), I determined to include practical strategems for assessing ratios and SI units. Realizing also that contemporary education in most disciplines is reorganizing approaches to learning in the light of learning styles and the new paradigm shift which focuses upon the teacher as facilitator and the students as self-directed learners, I began to review various modes of facilitation as well as ways to evaluate student involvement and leadership. The foregoing necessitated a revolutionary change in my personal understanding of communication skills and my selection of the best rudimentary skills to which I might lay claim as a base for the fine tuning of communication skills to fit the needs of today's healthcare professionals. Such rumination provided me with the following plan.
Assessment of Personal Rudimentary Skills
Culling feedback from both former teachers, supervisors, and friends, I gave myself permission to include the following rudimentary skills:
Ability to listen well
A non-confrontational attitude
Better than average technological skills
A willingness to try new approaches
Basic intuitive skills
Very basic verbal and written communication skills
Communication Skills 2
I interpreted the first four rudimentary skills as positive input toward my plan for heightened communication; I viewed the last two as negative, rudimentary skills much in need of improvement. My plan of attack to remedy the situation was to investigate ways by which I might improve those intuitive skills as well as the verbal and written communication skills. A strong will to achieve, inbred in my nature, inspired me to take action through an ultimatum: one cannot give to others what one does not possess himself. This was a wake-up call, and my personal awe at becoming a part of the healthcare profession encouraged me through a recurring mind chant which repeated the Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. Research has reminded me that the actual oath ran something like this:
I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment and I will do no harm or injustice to them (Hippocrates, 2010).
Steps in the Process
Since reflection, to me, has always precluded quiet, I vowed to begin each day with some reflective time in a quiet place. The old treehouse in our backyard was still an option for these aging legs so I made that my quiet place. Each morning began with the discipline of sitting up there among the trees and the quiet sky, cross-legged in the center of my exercise mat, giving my inner self up to that mantra: do no harm…with all it implied for my future. Boyd and Fales Framework for Reflection reminds the student of human nature that "[This] process of creating and clarifying the meanings of experience in terms of self, in relation to both self and the world…[changes] conceptual perspective" (Lifelong Learning Project, 1983).
Communication Skills 3
I figured that this practice would also increase my intuitive reading into the announced and unannounced needs of my students. "The process of creating and clarifying the meanings of experiences in terms of self in relation to both self and world [produces] an outcome which changes conceptual perceptions" (Boyd & Fales, 1983, p. 101). The very act of clarifying my own experiences and focusing upon them during quiet time was not only clearing my brain, but also opening up new areas of perceiving the experiences of others.
Practice was the medium for developing a new theory. According to Jane Conway and Penny Little of the University of Newcastle, Australia, this is actually the way it works. They believe that it is important to acknowledge the experience base of the learner as valid. Problem-based learning has been described as both an instructional strategy and a curriculum design (Conway & Little, 2000 University of Newcastle website).
In embracing their philosophy, I had to define "problem-based learning." And, according to H.S. Burrows, this increasingly popular term 'problem-based learning' does not necessarily refer to any specific educational method but can have different meaning, depending on the design of the educational method employed and the skill of the teacher (1986, p. 483). In a further examination of the method, I found that Shumway, Vargas, and Heller, in their study of problem-solving abilities, discovered that the "trail-following" approach had been most commonly used to study the physician's problem-solving behavior. As might have been anticipated, "…the accumulation of medical knowledge and experience forms the basis of clinical competence." The writers go on to examine four methods of teaching in this mode:
Communication Skills 4
1)case presentation; 2) the rain of ideas; 3) the nominal groups technique and decision-making consensus; 4) the census and analysis of forces in the field and the analysis of clinical decision. (1984, p. 49). The 'focus-group' model appealed to me, since obviously several heads are better than one at extracting and comparing ideas. So far, my personal plan for a more disciplined strengthening of my own communication skills as directed toward future work in healthcare
took on a shape of its own -- the pattern assumed this form:
Reflective Time + Reading
Personal Assessment of Intuitive Responses
Development of Facilitation Skills
Reflection in Action: Development of PBL methods
With practical time management, I assured myself that I could and would reach the point of attaining these necessary communication skills; furthermore, my knowledge of and ease with all things technological, I was certain, would facilitate the project.
Momentum was activated through the reading of Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. Authors Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner examine the context in which adult learning takes place, who the participants are, what they learn and why, the nature of the learning process itself, new approaches to adult learning, the development of theory in adult learning, plus other issues relevant to understanding the process of adult learning (2006, p. ii). A resolution to take an online course in Numeracy Skills (the importance of which is noted earlier in this paper) was made, and a project which entailed designing a color-coded graphic which would display standard SI units was begun. Prefixes had also been standardized by the Communication Skills 5
Systeme International d'Unites. These were adopted worldwide in 1960 to replace the many differing national systems. Although in the United Kingdom, some imperial measures can be found, SI Units are used in nursing -- a graphic display chart would definitely adorn my classroom (http:www//learntech.uwe.ac.uk/numeracy 2011).
Last, but not least, I knew I had to update my information technology skills. According to sciencedirect.com, "…conceptual models are central to IS analysis and design and are used to define user requirements and as a base for developing information systems to meet these requirements" (http://www.sciencedirect.com, February 2, 2011). Evidently there are no generally accepted guidelines for evaluating the quality of conceptual models, but this is understandable since "[A] conceptual model exists only as a construction of the mind, and therefore, quality cannot be as easily assessed…the evaluation of conceptual models is by nature a social, rather than a technical process" (http://www, sciencedirect.com, February 2, 2011). Clearly, I had much reading yet to accomplish on this subject. However, my penchant for technology and design would be an asset. An extended number of hours for this achievement was added to my study schedule book.
Rather than becoming discouraged by all this reading that must be accomplished, I was relying upon my gift for thriving on challenge. This gift would be tested by the actual charting of hours of application -- the spur of an adrenaline high was one thing; its practical application, another. In reviewing my initial overview of competencies, I noted that intuitive skills were only basic. I found help at a local library, eager techno that I am! According to Milton Fisher, an Communication Skills 6
expert on the subject, there are Intuitive Consciousness-Raising Groups out there. I would find one. He insists that "Your intuitive system controls those qualities that make you a human being: courage, altruism, compassion, benevolence, sensitivity, kindness, love, companionship, empathy, sympathy, remorse, grief, joy, anger, scorn, hatred, nostalgia, yearning, and ambition" (1981, p. 163). It made sense that none of the above come from thinking, but from the deeper roots of one's nonverbal being and that they grow from an awareness outside conscious direction. I had work to do in this dimension! Work, nonetheless, which would surely empower my ability to not only better understand the needs of my students but their nuanced responses. As one who would be advocating and illustrating problem-based learning as well as the role of teacher as facilitator, this kind of knowledge would be essential.
Excitement began to elevate as I recognized the fact that I would be entering a new dimension of education and hopefully living up…