College of Arts and Sciences Launches Graduate Certificate in Health Communication

College of Arts and Sciences Launches Graduate Certificate in Health Communication

Woman doctor speaks with patient

The unique, fully online 12-credit Health Communication for Healthcare Professionals Certificate will enhance the ability of those working in a healthcare field to more effectively share information.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine (2016) “analyzing medical death rate data over an eight-year period, Johns Hopkins patient safety experts have calculated that more than 250,000 deaths per year are due to medical error in the U.S.” These adverse events are more than double what the Institute of Medicine estimated 17 years earlier and are today one of the leading causes of death in America. Not only are these tragedies increasing, but they are in large part due to dysfunctional or ineffective health communication (interpersonal, team, and/or organizational). Consequently, the College of Arts and Sciences developed this program to enhance healthcare professionals’ communication skills with the following goals/objectives:

  • Demonstrate how effective interpersonal, team, and/or organizational health communication can improve clinical, personal, and institutional outcomes — from decreasing medical errors to reducing provider stress and burnout 
  • Illustrate the ways in which miscommunication, ineffective health communication, and/or the lack of information-sharing and collaboration can lead to adverse events and unintended realities 
  • Explore the communication (verbal and nonverbal) behaviors that can lead to improved interpersonal relationships (with patients, families, peers, and co-workers), trust development, and empowerment 
“As with all Fairfield opportunities, this Certificate Program is student-focused,” said Michael Pagano, professor of communication who will lead much of the certificate’s coursework. “Classes will be interdisciplinary and offer an opportunity for health care providers from diverse professions and geographic locations, as well as education and expertise, to interact with both faculty and student colleagues.”

This fully online, asynchronous (not meeting as a group at any specific day/time during the week) Health Communication for Healthcare Professionals Certificate program will use a variety of computer-mediated educational opportunities to create an interactive, discussion-based, virtual seminar for each of the courses. Specifically, Zoom-based lectures posted online each week with assigned readings from health communication-related texts will serve as the foundation for the interaction-based questions in the online discussion board.

Healthcare professionals in this certificate program will be able to choose from a variety of course options and, taking one class per 14-week semester, can complete the pass/fail, 4-course certificate requirement in as little as 16 months (e.g., fall, spring, summer, and fall), or at their own pace. In addition to written texts, a wide variety of visual texts and media will be used to enhance learning and increase interdisciplinary discussions.

“Healthcare providers by definition are committed to being men and women for others,” continued Dr. Pagano. “Enhancing providers' health communication skills, reducing miscommunication and medical errors, building trust-based provider-patient relationships, and improving patients’ outcomes are all related to our Jesuit mission.”

The Health Communication for Healthcare Professionals Certificate program is intended for anyone with an associate’s, bachelor's, master’s, or doctoral degree who is either a licensed healthcare provider, an employee of a healthcare organization (nonprofit or for-profit), or a graduate student in a health profession-related program.

For more information or to apply to the Health Communication for Healthcare Professionals Certificate program please visit the website or contact graduate admissions.

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