Communicating and working across differences is tough, no matter who you are. In this episode you’ll learn about Building BRIDGES – what we do, how we do it, and why.
Hi, this is 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel.
In this podcast series, and on health communication partners.com, and in pretty much all of my other work, I front the fact that I’m a literacy person, I’m from higher ed, a researcher and educator and former classroom teacher. I’m even a bit of a policy geek.
But we’re celebrating the second anniversary of health communication partners.com and we recently celebrated the 50th podcast episode in this series.
How did I get here?
Do you know about Addressing Implicit Bias. It’s an audiobook bundle. Almost 90 minutes of audio, plus an ebook with clickable links to research references, plus a powerpoint show, plus a document of references and additional resources. I made it for you, so you know it’s grounded in my commitment to equity and reducing health disparities. It’s inexpensive, and you’ll be supporting this podcast series and your own learning. Available right now for immediate download at healthcommunicationpartners.com.
Now, you know I write and talk about health literacy, and digital health literacy, and patient education, and health communication. With a constant drumbeat of reflective practice, equity, avoiding deficit perspectives, being culturally- and linguistically relevant.
Why did I decide to cross from the education sector into the health sector?
Because years ago as a member of a team doing a project on patient communication, Providers and I would start talking about health literacy and patient education. But then we would find ourselves also talking about other problems. Like practicing in the current climate. Having to do more with less. Feeling deprofessionalized. Being overwhelmed by accountability requirements. Feeling increasingly separated from the reasons that you got into the field to begin with. And these issues are faced, and felt, and negotiated by every single educator and teacher that I know. I’m not say it’s the same thing, but there are doubtless significant similarities.
The administrators, it was the same thing. They were dealing with patient satisfaction scores, constantly shifting reimbursement rates, digital health initiatives, and the moves to value-based care. All against the backdrop of reform. Again, I could relate: there were many similar issues in education and in higher ed. Again I’m not trying to equate the two sectors but to identify some shared concerns.
Because as we talked, we could link these concerns to health literacy health communication, and to patient education. And to health communication. this may sound like a leap. But these issues are tied to one another, and this I know from my work in the education sector. These connections are what health professionals and I discuss, strategize, act on, and reflect about.
But why? What on earth am I doing?
It’s taken me about three years, but I finally have an answer. I’m building BRIDGES. Now building bridges, it’s a metaphor and it’s also an acronym. I’ve talked about ‘building bridges’ many times. I used bridge-building language way back in my first grand rounds on health literacy in 2016. this history with the metaphor ultimately helped me create the BRIDGES acronym.
BRIDGES is what I’m about. BRIDGES is the fundamentals of what I do. BRIDGES is my structure.
BRIDGES is also a metaphor for the work I’ve been trying to imagine in the world. It’s also a way of understanding my assumptions–and my aspirations! In a way, BRIDGES is also the story of my last three years as a professional. Crossing sectors. Negotiating different people, and spaces, and institutions.
And I invite you to build BRIDGES through everything I do. This site, the podcast series, my workshops, courses, my consulting work. All of it.
So what does BRIDGES mean? There is a lot to say. This is kind of a flyover, so I’ll keep it to the most fundamental concepts, the most important info. First of all…
B – Bi-directional. This comes from my work in mentoring as much as anything else. Bi-directional refers to many things, including bi-directional communication, bi-directional learning, bi-directional participation, and bi-directional movement. Traffic on these bridges is in both directions!
R – Resource-based. Resource-based is an important concept for me. I use it, as many do, to contrast with a deficit perspective. This is a focus on the resources, strengths, assets, or funds of knowledge of an individual or group. That’s not to say we ever lose sight of the bigger picture and the systems surrounding.
I – Inquiry as stance. Perhaps you’ve heard inquiry, or inquiry-based learning, used in the sense of asking questions about, or taking an attitude of discovery toward, a project. for nearly three decades The concept of inquiry has been central to the work of Marilyn Cochran-Smith and Susan Lytle (who’s my mentor). Inquiry as Stance is more than the title of their 2009 book. It’s the latest iteration of their revolutionary work. And it takes inquiry places you might never have imagined.
D – Digital, face to face, and multimodal. This one’s fairly straightforward! This is about modes of communication as much as it’s about literacy, learning, and relationship-building. “Multimodal,” in the research traditions I’m coming from, means more than one way of making meaning. Think: speech, written text, or a photograph would be monomodal. Anything that combines – videos, just about anything digital, would be ‘multimodal.’
G – Global and local. These terms have particular meaning in the literacy research and policy traditions I come from. There are also several implications for equity. For now, I’ll say both the global and the local are important to keep an eye on, at all times, and it’s the interplay of the global and local to which I try to pay special attention.
E – Equity orientation. I have an equity orientation in what I do, how I do it, and why I do it. What does this mean? Lots. In my educational work, for example, it means not only teaching about equity but teaching for equity and teaching in equitable ways. I owe this to my doc program at PennGSE. Equity is a hot term. So I am learning to be careful how I use it, and what assumptions I’m making when others use it.
S – Social and situated. Let me just say this: Learning is social. Language is social. Literacy is social. Health is social. OK, moving on. “Situated” refers to how I approach and research social events and practices. Briefly, I study how people use language and learn in the context of their everyday lives. So my work is ‘situated’ in real-world happenings – what’s going on, and what it means to the people involved.
Whew! It’s taken me years to be able to pull that off and articulate what I’m doing, to people who ask. That is why I’m delighted to share the building BRIDGES approach with you. But it’s not all about me!
Through everything I do, I’m hoping to support what you’re doing. That’s why I’m asking you to use these ideas to think with me. I want to hear your thoughts and questions.
I also want to be careful not to oversimplify a very complicated set of problems. But it is possible for health communication, health literacy, and patient education resources to support you in the immediate needs of your day to day practice, and also to help you look upstream, at larger issues to which your work is connected. Such work will take some collaboration, and different kinds of expertise. But I expect the same is true when dealing with any complex problem in the world.
Let’s build some BRIDGES together! Over time, I’ll be coming back and reflecting, and unpacking, poking at this some more. Won’t you join me? write me by visiting healthcommunicationpartners.com or connecting with me on twitter or LinkedIn. Sign up for the newsletter! This has been 10 Minutes to Better Patient Communication from Health Communication Partners. I’m Dr. Anne Marie Liebel.