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Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness
Communication and working relationships in sport and fitness

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1 Applying your learning: learning from doctors

You start by dropping into St Mary’s Hospital in London, where four exhausted doctors discuss whose operation should proceed.

Activity 1 Doctors meet about their operations

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

A bit of background is needed for this short clip. Consultant Simon Ashworth (seated in his office) controls the Intensive Care (IC) bed spaces, which are needed by other doctors for their patients recovering from operations. He has one bed remaining and two doctors, George Hannah and Richard Gibbs (he remains largely silent), who need the IC bed confirmed for their operation to proceed.

Watch the clip: how does Ashworth’s communication approach maintain his professional relationship?

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The consultant Ashworth remains calm and tries to explain his underlying values of patient safety that are driving his decision making. Three times he tries to explain the risks of proceeding with George’s six-hour operation as potentially compromising any slack in the ICU bed availability for unforeseen emergencies, e.g. a car crash. He also attempts to show empathy and understanding for George’s situation of cancelling an operation for the second time by saying ‘you know, I understand the logistics of that are difficult …’. Addressing people with their first names and maintaining eye contact to help show that he is closely attending to their messages and trying to connect with them in difficult circumstances. Also notice that at one point, all four people allow a silence of about 3 seconds while they think. Often, such silences can be filled unnecessarily by people feeling uncomfortable and talking. Silence can provide useful space in conversations to reflect on the most appropriate action.

Two of the main lessons from this are first, how those involved maintain a calm consistency in their communication making effective dialogue easier. Second, Ashworth shows good listening skills, including use of empathy and courtesy.