Tactful people are careful not to hurt the feelings of others. They can often defuse a confrontational situation by their appropriate intervention, appealing to both sides to resolve their differences. A shy or socially awkward person will be welcomed and eased into a gathering of people by the tactful hostess.
Similarly the HCA will quickly pick up on the sensitivities of the patient regarding his/her body image, physical flaws or disabilities, treating the patient with equity and respect; making sure not to give offense.
That one should behave tactfully is as important as communicating tactfully. The following is a true example of tactlessness:
A HCA was mentoring a student on placement; the HCA was in the process of teaching the student how to give a male patient with cerebral palsy a blanket bath. The process had gone well, student instructed, patient’s cooperation gained. The necessary equipment had been brought to the bedside and the patient had been stripped in readiness for the bath. The sheet was turned half way down his body when the HCAs phone rang. Without excusing herself she stepped away from the bedside to answer it. For the next ten minutes she spoke on the phone in a foreign language, leaving the student in a quandary not knowing what to do; feeling awful for the patient who couldn’t communicate. The student pulled the sheet up covering the patient. When the phone-call ended the HCA resumed the task without an apology or explanation to either the patient or the student, both of whose feelings had been hurt by the incident.