Communication in Healthcare Vital: PhD Study Finds
A concern with regards to communication in healthcare- whilst being included now as a graduate competency in health professions education- being somewhat neglected in South Africa was the basis upon Dr Margaret Glynnis Matthews built her PhD study.
‘I am delighted to have completed my PhD by publication. I hope that my work will place emphasis on communication in healthcare in the South African context,’ said Matthews upon receiving her Philosophy in Medicine Doctoral degree.
Matthews has a great interest in the humanistic side of medicine and feels that good communication is important to improve the lived experience of patients. She believes that communication is where the art and science of medicine meet.
‘The work was challenging and time-consuming. Setting targets and time management is key,’ she said.
Under the supervision of her mentor, Dr Jacqueline Van Wyk, Matthews’ study looked at communication in the healthcare context in KwaZulu-Natal where 77.8 % of patients speak isiZulu on a first language basis. The study aimed to improve the teaching of communication to medical and other health professional students in the South African context, in particular in KwaZulu-Natal, by the inclusion of teaching communication that is socially responsive to the contexts doctors work in.
While the topic of communication in healthcare has been somewhat neglected in South Africa, considerable emphasis is placed on the communication of healthcare providers in international contexts. Matthews’ study emphasises its importance in clinical competence and in providing effective healthcare. The study will pave the way for future research. ‘My grandfather came to South Africa from Ireland, where his sister, one of few women studying Medicine at the time, died from TB during her undergraduate medical studies. My grandfather spoke isiZulu fluently and was well-loved by his patients. In the course of working in hospitals and private practice in KwaZulu-Natal, I also learnt isiZulu for clinical communication and found this invaluable in my work,’ she shared.
Matthews did her first year BSc as an undergraduate at the then University of Natal (now UKZN) in Pietermaritzburg, after which she completed her MBChB at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Later, she returned to UKZN as Head of Clinical Skills at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.
Words: Lihle Sosibo
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal