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The 7 Cs of communication in EMS

Keep these communication fundamentals in mind when trying to get the message across to EMS providers, hospital staff, patients and bystanders


EMS leaders use the 7 C’s with all modes of EMS communication.


As EMS leaders, we spend a good amount of time interacting with others. Since we come in contact with so many people during our daily duties, it is vital we have the skills necessary to communicate effectively. From our employees, to hospital staff, first responders and finally to patients and their families we are sending both verbal and nonverbal messages.

Once we return back to the office there is certainly no break from our need to communicate. We may need to return phone calls, deal with patient complaints and answer countless emails.

Being able to effectively communicate with others is imperative to our success as leaders. Effective communication is more than just being able to talk to someone. We have to be active listeners, understand what others are saying, and be able to read and interpret body language.

So, what is the best way to develop our communication skills? Let’s take a look at the 7 C’s of communication.

Communication foundation

The 7 C’s stand for:

  1. Clear
  2. Concise
  3. Concrete
  4. Correct
  5. Coherent
  6. Complete
  7. Courteous

When you follow the 7 C’s they will give you the foundation you need to become the best communicator possible.

You can use the 7 C’s with all modes of EMS communication. Let’s take a look at each word a little closer.

1. Clear. No matter what the task at hand, writing a memo, composing an email, alerting the emergency department of a sepsis patient, speaking to a small group of personnel, or presenting to the city council, we need to ensure our key points are as clear as possible. Just because we send our message out to the intended person does not mean they will understand it in the way it was planned. It is best to minimize the key points per sentence, so there is no need to read between the lines and misinterpret the message.

2. Concise. This is being as brief as possible to get your point across. No one likes to read long monotonous memos. One of the writing drills I do with leadership staff is that after they prepare a memo, the document is then reviewed. Once the review is complete, it is given back to the writer with the instructions, “Now say the same things with fewer words.” We may do this drill a couple times. This ensures the workforce receives the clearest and concise message possible. It also teaches the leadership team to write as brief as possible to get the point across.

3. Concrete. There are so many definitions, uses and interpretations for the same words that it can become a bit overwhelming. It’s important that we choose the most distinct words with the most precise meanings to get our message across. This will ensure we are painting the clearest picture, which in turn leads to the goal we want to achieve.

4. Correct. When writing, this deals not only with the facts of your message, but also the use of proper spelling and grammar. When speaking, it is using proper words, appropriate pauses and pronunciation.

5. Coherent. Whether we communicate through writing or speaking, ensure that the message is logical, that it flows and is relevant to the key points. Coherent is especially important when giving a radio report to activate an acute care team for a STEMI or Stroke patient or when you are asking dispatch to send more resources to a mass casualty incident.

6. Complete. When your message is complete, the receiver has all the information necessary to be informed by your meaning and will be able to respond appropriately.

7. Courteous. Communicate politely, respectfully, openly, honestly, and professionally as possible. How do you want to be treated when someone is communicating with you? Keep that point of view in mind when you communicate with them.

Now that we have defined the 7 C’s of communication, it’s time to make these part of prehospital emergency care patient care and leadership of EMS providers. Consider how the 7 C’s might apply to your use of a mobile device to communicate with EMS providers and hospital staff. Bandwidth, mobile data limits and small screens make it especially important to send clear messages. Character limits of some messaging apps require messages to be concise. A message that is coherent and concrete lowers the likelihood of back and forth texts to clarify your message.

Being able to be an effective communicator is an important skill to master. Effective communications will assist us in building creditability, define our integrity and develop a true following of our workforce.

This article, originally published in May 2013, has been updated.

Chris Cebollero is head of operations for QuickMedic. Cebollero is a nationally recognized Emergency Medical Services leader, best selling author, and advocate. He is a member of the Forbes Coaching Council and available for speaking, coaching and mentoring. Cebollero is a member of the EMS1 Editorial Advisory Board. Follow him on Twitter @ChiefofEMS and on Facebook.