Effective communication is paramount to clinical care. It allows us to connect to our patients in a meaningful way, establish rapport, and exchange information necessary to achieve our clinical outcomes.
Poor communication can result in misunderstandings, anxiety, agitation, unintended action, combative behavior, and decreased willingness/refusal to participate in therapy.
There are several variables affecting speech and language comprehension in our patients
Rate of speech (how many sounds per second you produce)
Amplitude of speech (volume of your voice)
Environmental variables (ambient noise, multisensory distractions)
Hearing acuity (ability of their aural mechanism to convert sound waves into nerve impulses)
Cognitive processing (their ability to convert the sounds they hear into a meaningful message)
It can be argued that the easiest factor to manipulate is RATE OF SPEECH. Studies show that humans maximally understand speech rate in their mid-twenties, and our ability progressively declines as we age. They also show that we tend to speak the fastest in our teenage years, and slowly decrease by decade. It’s no surprise teenagers are so difficult to understand by their elders considering their high rates of speech and use of colloquialisms.
Your Clinical Voice should be very different from your “standard voice”.
Your Clinical Voice should consider these factors:
Rate of Speech-When working with the elderly or cognitively impaired, it should feel very slow in rate when first developing this skill.
Pitch- should generally be lower than casual conversation. Higher pitch is more difficulty to hear for those with hearing loss, and amplification devices can turn higher pitched voices into painful noise.
Inflection- Not monotone, but with less variances than you use with casual conversation
Complexity of Vocabulary-make sure it is professional, but not over your listener’s educational, social, and cognitive capacity.
Developing your Clinical Voice is something to work on over time. An ideal Clinical Voice may take years to habituate. Start today and you may realize improved patient relationships, improved willingness to participate, and fewer obstacles to doing what you came here to do…Rehabilitation!