PNDC for Healthcare Professionals

Using This Information Packet: This packet includes (1) an overview of the training; (2) short biographies for Sharon Strand Ellison and her daughter, Ami Atkinson Combs, who are the primary master teachers of the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ process developed by Sharon; (3) a partial client list; (4) comments from healthcare professionals; and (5) numerical scores and sample comments from participants at one Fortune 500 company.

The overview starts with the introduction from the landing page and then continues with more information. You can start with "More . . ." if you've already read the introduction. You can also return to the landing page to access additional information about workshops, training topics, conferences, and coaching.

Training Context & Overview
Biographical Information
Partial Client List
Comments from Professionals in the Field of Healthcare
Evaluations Fom One Fortune 500 Company

Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: Healthcare professionals are commited to do everything in their power to help people heal and/or learn how to live life as fully as possible with conditions and disabilities that limit their functioning. At the same time, healthcare institutions and the professionals working with patients are are facing overwhelming changes in terms of control over the patients' treatment, astronomical costs, and increased scrutiny from patients, their families, the community, and the media. Traditional communication methods are simply outdated and ineffective in the high-pressure environment of today’s hospitals and clinics. Developing communication skills that can reach patients and their families in times of severe crisis, along with facilitating communication among professionals in the hierarchy of the organization can be invaluable.

More . . . In her keynotes and training programs, Sharon demonstrates how we’ve used the “rules of war” as the basis for how we talk to each other, which systemically creates and accelerates needless conflict. Using these old methods of communication, people get defensive easily, leading to power struggles among peers and in the hierarchy of any medical facility, which impacts both care and relationships with patients. Participants will also gain understanding about the physiology and dynamics of defensiveness.

Next, participants will learn Powerful Non-Defensive Communication skills for (a) asking questions that prompt genuine dialogue, within the hierarchy of the organization and with patients and their families; (b) giving honest feedback without defense or criticism, prompting patients and professionals alike to be more open to listening; (c) stating facts, opinions, beliefs, and feelings without trying to convince others to agree, so that instead of alienating others, greater understanding is created, and (d) predicting clear boundaries, prompting others to take more accountability, becoming increasingly respectful and competent.

RNs, LPNs, doctors, technicians, support staff, and administrators can use personal authority wisely, and with compassion. These skills are effective whether interacting with each other, patients, families, insurance representatives, and/or the public. Managers can enhance leadership skills to defuse power struggle, strengthening individual performance and cohesiveness among staff. Using these skills, healthcare professionals can strengthen relationships with colleagues, enhance their level of effectiveness and create stronger working relationships with patients and their families. The outcome is that the people in the healthcare profession can have greater power to be healing and be a source of strength to communities.

Biographical Information

Sharon Strand Ellison is internationally recognized pioneer in the field of eliminataing defensivenss and an award-winning speaker. She has been a Scholar in Residence at Saint John's University and is the author of the book, Taking the War Out of Our Words. She and her daugher, Ami Atkinson, produced the audiobook, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting, winner of a  Benjamin Franklin Award. Sharon was a nominee for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Advocacy Institute.

Sharon has provided conference keynotes, workshops and training programs for healthcare organizations for over thirty years. She has trained nurses, doctors, support staff, chaplains, social workers, psychologists, dietitians, dentists, hygienists, administrators, nursing home employees, and hospital public relations personnel.

Ami Atkinson Combs, Director of IPNDC, is a graduate of Mills College and co-author of the audiobook Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. As Sharon’s daughter, she has been an active participant in the years of discussion as Sharon envisoned and refined the PNDC Communication model. Ami has done psychosocial research at Stanford Medical School, been on the Newborn and Parent Advisory Board at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, and worked with severely emotionally disturbed children.

Ami’s innate understanding of systemic patterns in communication is alsp a cornerstone of her work with organizations, helping individual teams as well as the organization as a whole to strengthen their communication internally and with their client base. She offers coaching and trainings for educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations. Her clients include: General Dynamics, CA; Lockheed-Martin, CA; CCG Systems, VA; Habitat for Humanity, CA; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Toronto, Canada; The Wisconsin Council of Churches; Chemeketa College, Early Childhood Education; Lane Community College, Early Childhood Education Conference, National Conference; Eugene, OR.

Partial Client List

  • National Association Of Nutrition Services Agencies (ANSA)
  • Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford University
  • University of California, San Francisco, Medical School
  • UCSF Pediatric Interns Annual Conference
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital
  • Seton Health Services Foundation
  • Saint Joseph's Regional Medical Center
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • California Pacific Medical Center
  • McKenzie-Willamette Hospital
  • Eugene Hospital and Clinic
  • Good Samaritan Center
  • Breast Cancer Action, San Francisco
  • Indian Health Services National Hygienists’ Conference
  • Indian Health Services Regional Directors’ Conference
  • Oregon Dietitians’ Conference
  • Bay Area Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, annual conference for hospital clergy
  • Association of Health Care Communicators of Oregon, annual conference for public relations personnel for hospitals and insurance companies
  • Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, Canada

Sharon was a keynote speaker for the statewide annual meeting of the Kaiser Permanente Omsbud Mediators. She has also provided training for the Women’s Global Health Imperative, Global Health Scholar's Program, leadership development for selected women scientists working with women’s health issues in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. In conjunction with a selected team of Native American women leaders from Indian Health Services Dental Programs, she developed a nationwide training program for Native American dental assistants who are often supervised by white dentists. Training included issues of differences in culture and power differentials. In addition Sharon has been a speaker for four consecutive years at the Diversity Pipeline, a leadership conference for women of color in health sciences. She has also been published in the Creative Nursing Journal. Sharon is dedicated to enhancing performance, creating leadership with integrity, and building strength of community in every environment.

See More Complete Client List

Comments from Professionals in the Field of Healthcare

Thank you Sharon and Ami for your outstanding presentation at our recent conference. You were so inspiring and we were re-energized by your enthusiasm for our efforts. We were so fortunate to have had the benefit of your wisdom and experience. Your insight into the art of communication was invaluable. We are all on an emotional high, even though we know there is still a great deal of work ahead and there will be barriers and resistance. We know that we will continue to be in touch with you and there will be many opportunities for future collaboration. 

—William D. Rhine, MD, Medical Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital
 & Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine
—Joan Forte, RN, BSN, Patient Care Manager of the IICN, Stanford Hospital, Johnson Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital

I am integrating material from your book and what I learned in your workshop into my Leadership in Nursing Management class. It has helped all of us to practice speaking in a way that generates information rather than defensiveness. My students are captivated by the material and recognize how valuable your work is to them as leaders returning to their jobs in management. The average age of our students in the RN to BSN program is 40 and the average number of years they have worked as RNs is 7. Thank you for providing us a "conscious" communication method, which is crucial in these times of rapid change and high stress in the health professions.

—Aida Sahud, Dr. Ph.H., M.P.H., MSN, RN, Associate Professor, Holy Names College

Sharon Ellison is fabulous! She did an incredible job at our annual conference where she presented “The Power of Non-Defensive Communication” to over 300 people at our opening plenary. The response was a standing ovation.  Everyone felt they had been touched and educated. Sharon's work has very broad implications for communication at every level with staff, clients, and volunteers, and can greatly enhance the services we provide. The appeal and application of PNDC is universal and offers a powerful tool for social change.  In fact, the potential for professional and personal growth is unlimited.

We have already integrated Sharon's concepts and material from her book into ANSA's leadership development program and will be inviting her to present as part of our Leadership Development Institute. I highly recommend her and her work and believe she is a rare and exceptional talent.  Sharon is a brilliant speaker, a tremendous motivator and an outstanding educator.

Frank Abdale, Executive Director, Association of Nutrition Services Agencies, an international membership organization focused on nutrition services for the critically ill

This workshop not only helped me to improve my communication with members of the healthcare team, but has contributed my ability to help our team bridge the gaps that often occur in crisis situations. I believe that using these non-defensive communication skills is the key to promoting healthy interactions and healthy lives. —Dorothy Rollins, Quality Management Coordinator, Providence Hospital, Portland, OR

I have participated in a number of Ms. Ellison's workshops and in an ongoing training group. The concepts and techniques of her method are extremely useful in a professional medical environment to enhance understanding and clarity between patients or clients and the professionals involved in their care. In addition, this communication process facilitates the accurate communication and defusion of defensiveness between professionals themselves, so necessary for good teamwork and optimal patient care. Although I have extensive clinical experience, I have learned a tremendous amount from this work and encouraged many of my colleagues to participate as well.

—Ragna C. Boynton, M.D., Pediatric Cardiologist, Berkeley Pediatric Medical Group

Our attendees received more than they were expecting from your keynote and your breakout session on "Dealing With Resident and Family Complaints."  I was surprised at the degree of knowledge you had of Long Term Care and the type of situations which can cause our employees to feel and act defensively with family members. Your presentation was a breath of fresh air.  You provided powerful tools that can both help improve customer satisfaction and reduce turnover at the same time.  Too often, we sacrifice good employees because we act as if "the customer is always right" even when we know that they are not. The principles in your presentation and your book apply to almost every setting.

—Robert Vande Merwe, Idaho Health Care Association

Sharon Strand Ellison has provided training for the Eugene Clinic, which has approximately 60 physicians and 400 staff members. Her evaluations were consistently high. I heard about Sharon from one of our receptionists who had attended Sharon's workshop on non-defensive communication and said it was the most useful communication presentation she'd ever heard. What impressed her the most was that she'd been able to walk away with tools she could use immediately. Sharon is one presenter who hears and internalizes participants' difficulties with communication and consistently infuses her presentations with fresh, applicable examples.

—Sheila Dill, Director of Marketing & Public Relations, Eugene Clinic, Eugene, OR

The ability to communicate well is at the core of Nursing Practice. We are often at the hub of situations that are extremely stressful and chaotic. As nurses, we are also often the only link between patients and their doctors, between patients and their families and between the different medical disciplines. In addition, I believe most nurses would say that communication with doctors, and sometimes with other nurses, is one of the most difficult aspects of their jobs. This is a major cause of demoralization and frustration among nurses which, over time, can lead to burnout, stress-related illnesses, and, in some cases, the inability to really advocate for ourselves and our patients. Sharon’s work provides us with the tools to ask thoughtful and thorough questions, giving us the ability to gather information from patients, physicians, and peers in a way which is not only efficient, but also maximizes the likelihood of a genuine, cooperative response. We can also state our position clearly and firmly without antagonizing others. These skills can keep us out of power struggle. I can imagine few places which would benefit more from Sharon Strand Ellison's Powerful Non-Defensive Communication techniques as greatly as a hospital or a healthcare setting. 

—Helen Greenspan, RN, Oakland, CA

As Executive Director of the UCSF Center for Gender Equity, I invited Sharon to speak at a leadership conference for women of color students in the health sciences. Some professors and deans also attended. The conference was designed to increase the pool of women in career academic paths in the UC Health Science system with a particular emphasis on women from underrepresented backgrounds. As always, Sharon’s presentation was engaging, participatory and highly valuable. She was able to communicate effectively across lines of culture and received the highest ratings from the attendees. Comments included:

“I believe everyone would benefit from hearing Sharon’s message and practicing her techniques.” 

 “As a woman of color, I thought this was outstanding. She brought me to tears!”

 “Amazing information! Very powerful. The best and most practical workshop of the

 “I think this was the best talk I have been to in my entire medical career.”

—Amy Levine, Director, Gender Equity Center, UCSF Medical School

You are an articulate, strong speaker...You did a great job checking out with the audience and moving with our needs...You moved people from skepticism to acceptance...I like your premise that I can reclaim my personal power by not getting into power struggles...I can get my integrity back…You did a great job of modeling your message in the way you handled the workshop...It is definitely a new way of communicating...It makes people more accountable...I can start applying this information right away and it will be helpful in all aspects of my professional and personal life.

—Comments from participants in the annual conference for Health Care Communicators of Oregon, including public relations people from Oregon's major hospitals, health care systems, and insurance companies

Evaluations from One Fortune 500 Company

Since a significant number of healthcare institutions are corporations, I'm including some data from one Fortune 500 Company.

Numerical Scores: Out of 495 participants, 95% gave the top two scores for not only having learned new information, but also for having learned new skills.

Comments: The sample of comments below represents the reactions of people across job functions and cultural backgrounds.

The concept is just brilliant and very insightful. Breathtaking from the very first words.       

At first I was doubtful that this approach was realistic in the real world of modern aggressive behaviors in order to get results. By the end of this workshop I realized it was possible to be non-defensive and not be weak, or give in to the aggressor.

Excellent. Ms. Ellison is brilliant, and a very effective teacher. This was a real breakthrough for me. I wasn't even aware of my own defensiveness before, and now believe I can be significantly more effective.

This is a professional survival seminar and keeping the class small is excellent for best examples. The instructor succeeds in creating an intimate atmosphere where people feel comfortable to bring real examples and honestly work toward resolutions.

This process is fantastic in connection with other management and diversity coursework. Great class!

Need to makes this a core class.

Your instruction really helped expose the everyday "minefield" of our defenses and self-protective tendencies. The techniques are invaluable.

The workshop was not what I had anticipated. The fundamental skills and techniques are easy to follow, yet revolutionary.

The single most powerful workshop I've taken here in 16 years. Thank you for giving me so very much. What powerful tools. I love your global view.

The Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication • Contact Us
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

Back to Top

Quick Links:

Newsletter Sign-Up

Books, CD's & Downloads

Calendar of Events

Training Options

Stories, Tips & More

Hear CD Excerpts

Video - YouTube

Read Articles

Hear Interviews

Contact Sharon to Schedule An Event


"Thank you for your outstanding presentation at our recent conference. You were so inspiring and we were re-energized… Your insight into the art of communication was invaluable. We are all on an emotional high, even though we know there is still a great deal of work ahead and there will be barriers and resistance …there will be many opportunities for future collaboration."

—William D. Rhine, MD, Medical Director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital
 & Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine

—Joan Forte, RN, BSN, Patient Care Manager of the IICN, Stanford Hospital, Johnson Unit, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital




Calendar Site Map Contact Us