It’s an all-too-common experience in the clinic or doctor’s office: The provider seems rushed and spends much of the brief visit typing notes into a computer. Marie Haverfield, a new assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies who examines communication patterns in high-risk settings, has focused recently on how health care providers can be more present during patient interactions. “My work often has this intersection between interpersonal communication and health communication – looking at health communication and relationships,” she says.
For her postdoc at Stanford University, Haverfield examined communication between health care providers, patients and their families, and with a team of researchers developed five strategies clinicians can practice to be more present. They range from gathering themselves before entering the exam room so they’re fresh and focused to looking up from that computer screen and making eye contact. And it’s not just about good feelings. “For a patient, understanding the information they’re receiving and coping with that information, that’s going to have implications on how well that patient manages their own health and how proactive they are in taking care of themselves and adhering to what their provider’s asking them to do,” Haverfield says.
Haverfield received an undergraduate degree from CSU Long Beach, and a master’s from CSU Los Angeles. She did her Ph.D. at Rutgers University. Much of her graduate work involved communication among families of parents with an alcohol use disorder, especially the role communication played in resilience among their children. After a brief detour to Capitol Records, where she did brand marketing for stars like Katy Perry, Haverfield became what is known as a “freeway flyer,” an adjunct who teaches at community colleges and CSUs around Southern California. “It was a lot of juggling and definitely a great experience,” Haverfield says. “But I am so excited to have an office.”