The Importance of Active Listening in Healthcare Leadership

In the healthcare field, doctors, nurses, and other staff members spend a lot of time listening to patients as they describe their symptoms, express their fears, detail their medical history, explain what has worked or has not worked in the past, etc. 

While it is easy to get stuck in the routine of listening to patients just enough to fill out their medical chart, it can make all the difference to simply set down the clipboard, turn away from the computer, and set your eyes on the patient speaking.

Why is this shift so important, you ask? It demonstrates active listening.

Whether these professionals serve in a managerial or authoritative role within their office or not, they are in a position of leadership with every patient under their care. They are the experts, the coaches, the guides, you name it.

What is Active Listening?

The practice of active listening is critical for effective leadership. 

It requires giving full, engaged attention, not only to the words others are saying, but also to the tone with which they are saying them and the body language they demonstrate while they are speaking. As an effective leader, this is an invaluable tool to better interpret words, tone, and emotions, provide solutions, and make others feel valued and heard. 

Active listening looks like:

  • Not interrupting others while they speak
  • Not picking up your phone during conversation
  • Listening to understand, not to respond
  • Maintaining eye contact with the speaker
  • Facing the speaker head-on
  • Occasionally nodding to show you are taking in the words they are saying

Active Listening Builds Trust

The practices listed above all show that the listener is fully engaged with what the speaker is saying. Subconsciously, this communicates to the speaker that the listener cares, is empathizing, and truly values the speaker and what he/she has to say. 

Here’s an example.

Imagine you walk into an office with two doctors, Doctor A and Doctor B.

You start talking about your severe back pain and how it has cost you sleepless nights, the ability to play sports with your kids, a normal work routine, the chance to exercise, etc.

Doctor A is standing between you and the door, ferociously writing down what you are saying, giving an occasional “mhmm,” and asking you follow-up questions without even looking up from the clipboard.

Doctor B is sitting at eye-level with you, making eye contact while you speak, nodding when you look for reassurance, and expressing empathy in body language and facial expressions. 

Who would YOU trust to lead and care for you?

It’s all about making a connection. The ability to show that you are actively listening to the patient’s history, concerns, stories, bad jokes, grievances, etc., can make or break your success in building their trust. 

About Dr. Wilkerson, PD, MBA, PCC.

Do you want to increase your impact? Do you want to increase profits under your leadership? Do you want to develop and use your abilities to the fullest to better connect with and lead others? Executive Leadership Coaching covers these bases. Dr. Jerrund Wilkerson, PD, MBA, PCC, has more than 30 years of successful executive leadership coaching in the United States and internationally.

As a licensed pharmacist, he is particularly passionate about helping develop effective leaders in the healthcare community. Dr. Wilkerson has coached and trained thousands of managers and leaders. He is a certified coach and member of the John Maxwell Leadership Team.

CLICK HERE to learn more.