Good Communication Cycle For Medical Assistant

Because a first impression is so important, a medical assistant must help ensure that each patient’s first impression of the medical office is a positive one. Good communication is one of the most essential skills for ensuring a positive first impression. Communication is a complex, continuous, multidimensional process. The message, or content, of communication includes not only what a person says but also the nonverbal and symbolic language of facial expressions, body language, and vocal inflections. Thus, a medical assistant must be sure the message she sends with her body language is congruent, or consistent, with the message she sends with her words.

Communication Cycle

Communication, or the process of sending and receiving information between two or more individuals, occurs in a cycle. The main features of the communication cycle include the referent, sender, receiver, message, channels, feedback, interpersonal variables, and environment.


The referent is what stimulates or motivates the communication. It might be an object, a sight, a sound, an idea, a sensation, or anything that prompts a person to communicate.


The message is the content of the communication. It includes verbal communication through words, nonverbal communication through gestures such as head nodding, and communication through symbolism. When a person receives a message, the message also becomes a referent for that person, who in turn may respond with another message.

Sender and Receiver

The person who delivers the message is the sender. This person is responsible for the emotional tone and accuracy of the message. The sender can increase the effectiveness of the communication experience by using clear speech, simple language, and adequate volume as well as facial expressions and body language that are congruent with the spoken message. The sender should observe the person to whom he is sending the message for signs of understanding or confusion.
A receiver is the person who receives the message and decodes it, or extracts the meaning of the message. The accuracy with which the receiver understands the message depends, in part, on how well the receiver pays attention to the sender. Paying close attention involves focusing, listening, and noting verbal and nonverbal cues.
The roles of sender and receiver are fluid, meaning they change back and forth as the communication cycle continues. Compatibility, familiarity, and commonality between sender and receiver enhance their communication and understanding.


Channels are the means of conveying messages, such as vision, hearing, and touch. Such channels may incorporate facial expressions, voice volume, vocal inflection, touching a person’s shoulder, and so on. The more channels a sender uses, the more clearly he conveys the message—as long as all of the channels are consistent with the message he or she is sending.


Feedback is the message returned by the receiver, which reflects his or her level of understanding. It also may include the receiver’s response to the original message.

Interpersonal Variables

Communication is greatly impacted by interpersonal variables, or factors that influence the receiver’s interpretation. Such factors include personal biases, education, developmental level, sociocultural background, values, beliefs, emotions, gender, health issues, roles, relationships, and prior experiences.


The communication environment is the setting in which the communication experience occurs. A number of environmental factors can interfere with the accuracy of communication, including pain, medication effects, room noise, temperature, humidity, lack of privacy, and inadequate space. In the medical office, a medical assistant is responsible for ensuring accurate communication with patients and coworkers. Therefore, she must address environmental and patient comfort issues in order to minimize distractions and maximize the patient’s ability to focus, listen, and understand.