For any health care provider, striving to communicate more effectively should be a life long endeavour. PAs communicate in every aspect of their job – whether doing medical documentation, assessing a patient, counseling a patient in preventative health, or explaining a medication regiment. Miscommunication can lead to medical mistakes, complaints in professionalism and medical malpractice.
CanMeds-PA, which is the national standard for PA practice in Canada (mirroring the CanMEDS for physicians) lists “Communicator” as one of the pillars for being a PA. Page 10 to 12 of the CanMeds-PA PDF outlines important skills you need to know as a collaborator – read this document thoroughly!
Work on written communication skills. Step 1 of applying to PA school involves submitting a Letter of Intent or completing a Supplementary Application, which may include written essay-like questions. In addition to submitting your GPA/transcript, letters of reference (if applicable).
You may have the best extra-curriculars and experiences to write about, however if you cannot write well this may hinder your chances of being invited to Part 2 – the PA school interview. You can practice writing by journaling, writing short essay pieces, and have a mentor read your work.
Work on verbal communication skills. Verbal communication skills are evaluated Multiple-Mini interviews (in addition to other attributes such as critical thinking, suitability for the profession). Effective communication skills take time and practice to develop.
There are several ways to hone your communication skills in the real world:
- Participate in jobs or volunteer opportunities that involve a customer service piece where you interact with others regularly
- Take on roles in teaching or tutoring – I find the practice of explaining a concept in a way that a layman has to understand really challenges you to be intentional with your speech
- If you are ESL (English as a Second Language) find a native English Speaking partner through your university. This partner will usually sit down and practice conversational English with you. Approach your university’s career centre to find opportunities to practice.
- Joining organizations like Toastmaster’s
For any health care provider, striving to communicate more effectively should be a life long endeavour.