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4 Ways to Improve Communication Between Nurses
Nurse-to-nurse communication skills are vital for quality healthcare and to ensure the safety of your patients. As a nurse, you are constantly in communication with colleagues, patients, and their families. This can be in the form of speaking, handing off reports, and written communication.
Communication between fellow nurses affects every aspect of the job and the patient experience. It even impacts the response time and interactions between other vital parts of hospital care, including:
- Nurse management and administration
- Nurse-to-physician communication
- Interactions with other staff members
- Nurse-patient communication, as well as communication with the family
But how can you make communication between you and your fellow nurses even more effective to prevent error, confusion, and maintain quality healthcare and safety amongst patients and staff members?
Whether you are a new nurse and just starting, or you have been in the field for a while and are looking for ways to better communicate with your nursing colleagues, here are a few helpful tips to improve communication between nurses:
1. Practice situational awareness.
Situational awareness refers to being aware of what’s happening in your unit and assessing any issues that may arise and cause problems that may prevent proper care and treatment. It also involves active listening, rather than listening to respond. Whether you are speaking to a colleague or patient, listen to what they have to say and wait to respond. There are certain cues you may miss if you only wait your turn to speak.
Promote open communication across teams so that employees feel comfortable speaking with one another, sharing concerns and asking questions, as well as communicating with managerial staff members, to ensure quality healthcare and situational awareness.
2. Emphasize nurse-to-nurse communication in every aspect of healthcare - including patient handoffs.
A clear and concise method of communication and transition must be in place during nurse shift changes and patient handoffs so that no key information is lost in the shuffle, and everything is accurately transferred between nurses and physicians. A procedure or protocol must be in place for transmission and transition so that there is an opportunity for nurses to communicate with one another and so that no information is lost.
One common and helpful procedure for patient handoff is known as SBAR, or:
S - Situation
B - Background
A - Assessment
R - Recommendation
It’s a very specific procedure to ensure proper communication and care between nurses, patients, and other staff members. It is a reliable and valuable communication tool that provides continuity of safe and effective care.
Another great tool is the I-PASS framework for patient handoff communication.
I - Illness severity
P - Patient Summary
A - Action List
S - Situation awareness and contingency planning
S - Synthesis by receiver
This effective procedure acts as a type of mental checklist for nurses between handoffs to ensure communication, safety, and continuity of workflow.
3. Adjust your communication to your audience.
Communication from nurse-to-patient, nurse-to-physician, and nurse-to-nurse are all going to look different. While physicians will need specifics on the patient’s status and condition, your fellow nurses will need the same information, in addition to tasks that are required, changes taking place, etc. to properly deal with a patient’s needs.
For nurse-patient communication, it’s important to provide information in a way that they will understand, as well as reassurance and empathy. Make sure you are using the proper terminology and communication skills depending on who you are speaking with.
4. Watch the way you communicate with other nurses for the most effective overall communication.
The way you speak with your fellow nurses can greatly impact the workflow and working environment. Being polite with other nurses and staff members can make the biggest difference in the world in building relationships and trust so that everyone is readily helping one another out and doing the best they can.
Learn to read other people’s body language so you can approach other nurses properly and avoid arguments, confusion, and stress. Additionally, make sure you are watching your body language to avoid miscommunication. Be sure to communicate your needs rather than dropping hints and expecting other nurses to read your mind.
Nurses need to treat one another with the same respect and care you would show one of your patients so that everything is running smoothly and so you can avoid hiccups and errors and ensure quality patient care.
Proper nurse-to-nurse communication is essential for patients’ safety and wellbeing. While nursing can be difficult, especially during this time, nursing is a team effort that involves working through complex situations and requires full effort on everyone’s part to ensure proper care and appropriate, effective procedures.