Putting patients at the heart of internal communication

“After one of our young patients married her partner in the multi-faith room, we turned the family conservatory into their suite for their wedding night; we blacked out the windows, wheeled a bed in for him, put in lots of candles and they could see the stars through the roof. They had that night together.”

Saturday 8th October 2016 is World Hospice and Palliative Care day. It is a chance to recognise these amazing places where stories like this happen every day. To celebrate the wonderful, caring people who work in them and by their thoughtful actions make things that little bit more bearable for the patients in their care and their loved ones.

Dame Cicely Saunders once said “You matter because you are you. And you matter to the last moment of your life.” It is this caring and holistic approach that defines the modern hospice movement that she began. A few years ago I was lucky enough to be asked to conduct an in-depth internal communication audit for national palliative care charity, Marie Curie. Throughout my time with them I was struck again and again by the real care that was shown. It was a genuine privilege to speak to people from all parts of the charity, from nurses to fundraisers, from occupational therapists to finance staff, all of whom were doing their best for patients and their families every day.

It was this focus on the people they were there to help that made the review of internal communication so powerful. The starting point for the project was the question ‘How would improving internal communication make things better for patients and their families?’ I found that everyone I interviewed, whatever their role, was able to make a connection between the impact on themselves of better communication and the improvement for their hospice and nursing service patients.

On the face of it, this seems like an obvious way to frame an internal communications audit. Why would you bother to communicate at all if it is not going to have a positive impact on your beneficiaries? And yet, when you’re reviewing your internal comms, it is all too easy to get caught up in the mechanics of your channels and the details of your audience and messages. When that happens you can sometimes lose sight of that bigger picture, the reason your employees are ultimately coming to work each day.

Internal communication in a hospice or nursing organisation can be challenging. You have employees, and often volunteers, who work in very different environments and with different immediate priorities. They will have different motivations and want to hear about different aspects of your organisation’s work. And, crucially, the channel access they have will vary – some will be desk-based and digital, others will be in environments that lend themselves better to face to face communication at shift handover or shop meetings. A clearly defined approach to internal communication that ultimately supports patients allows you to communicate effectively with all your audience groups for a single, shared purpose.

I believe that Dame Cicely’s words are a useful guide for internal communication too. If “you matter because you are you”, then all employees and volunteers deserve to be communicated with properly as well.

If you’d like help with reviewing your organisation’s communications, please do get in touch.

Until next time

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