How Soft Skills Are Helping to Combat COVID-19

It’s common to think of healthcare as a “coldly clinical” or a very technical, hard skill-driven profession. However, those who are in patient-facing roles see every day how important soft skills are to not just encourage repeat business, but also in order for a professional to better diagnose and secure positive patient outcomes.

Contact tracing is no exception. This field has come to the forefront of national conversation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, new contact tracer job postings have increased nearly 25X since late April 2020 on Indeed.com

Soft skills help contact tracers in many ways, but here we will outline three. 

1- When you establish patient trust, patients are more forthcoming and detailed.

The ultimate goal of contact tracing is to put together a detailed account of a patient’s history post-exposure and identify anyone at risk for also carrying a disease or contaminant. However, patient-tracer trust is critical in achieving this aim. Without trust, patients may feel guarded or uneasy to share more intimate information about their lives and may even question how secure their personal information is with the tracer. To build trust, tracers must balance behaviors that exude professionalism and intelligence with more friendly and engaging behaviors that help build rapport and prevent the tracer from seeming too detached or “coldly clinical.”  

2- When you communicate well, patients can better understand your questioning and what you’re looking for.

It is critical to be an excellent communicator when contact tracing. In order to get the most helpful and revealing answers, the patient must first deeply understand the line of questioning. Effective tracers often check for understanding from the patient and rephrase using more accessible language if necessary. It is impossible to ask all the right questions every time, but if you impart a basic understanding of the spreading mechanism of the disease or contaminant in question, your patient may be able to provide relevant details on their own, unprompted. 

3- You may need to navigate difficult conversations while putting the patients at ease.

Whenever you ask for a detailed account of a patient’s last few days, weeks or even months, sensitive, personal information may be revealed. They may even have to provide intimate details of their medical histories along with social activities. In order for a patient to feel like they can share intimate information with a tracer, they must have a sense of trust that makes them feel like their information is secure. Word choice, tone and body language are all critical during these difficult-to-navigate conversations and it is important to practice these behaviors in a safe space. 

In summary, soft skills are intimately linked to contact tracing and to the healthcare profession more generally. There are many learning technologies available to help impart technical knowledge, but few that address increasingly important soft skill acquisition. Mursion, a first-of-its-kind learning technology, focuses exclusively on soft skills and uses Virtual Reality to give learners a “safe space” to practice de-escalation techniques, building rapport, navigating difficult conversations, and other important behavioral skills needed to build patient trust. With 2020 coming to an end, it is clear there are many challenges ahead for healthcare and that soft skills are a critical component to overcoming them. 

If you’re interested in hearing more about contact tracing and soft skills, please check out Mursion’s Healthcare Roundtable this upcoming Thursday at 1PM ET. Click here to register. 

This post was written by Megan Frankl, a member of Mursion’s Growth team. To get in touch with Megan, email megan.frankl@mursion.com.