Maintaining Open Lines of Communication

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Two female nurses in blue coats consulting with a mail doctor in front of paper documentation

When managers and co-workers start to think and treat each other like team members, daily tasks become easier and work ethic improves. Working toward a common goal like enhanced patient outcomes makes it easier to collaborate and improve important factors like patient safety. In order to see these benefits among their teams, managers have to foster an environment of open and clear communication.

The importance of solid communication in health care settings

Just as it is in any type of work environment, open communication is fundamental to encouraging medical teams to work together to handle issues. Discussing the problem at hand with those involved can be the difference between finding the necessary solution and worsening the issue. According to the Institute of Healthcare Communication (IHC), effective communication has been found to reduce nurse turnover rates and improve working relationships and job satisfaction among nursing staffs.

When each member of the team is on the same page, patients can tell and they appreciate it. The IHC explained that research has shown that patients’ perceptions of the care they receive is greatly influenced by the quality of interactions with their health care team. A good nurse- or doctor-patient connection is established when nurses and doctors take patient concerns or problems seriously and are well-informed on their patients’ health statuses. When patients feel connected to their health care providers, their health improves, especially when balanced with medical adherence and self-management.

How lines of staff communication can be improved

It is not uncommon for bad leadership to cause miscommunication. Managers can identify leaders among their staff who can help them guide other nurses and provide instruction when necessary. Less experienced employees can then turn to these team members for answers.

Maintaing Open Lines of Communication Among Your Nursing Staff

Understanding the hierarchy of human needs also helps to foster open lines of communication. The most important needs are love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization, which involve problem solving, morality, creativity and spontaneity. When these needs are met in a safe and collaborative work environment, it increases staff members’ confidence and gives them a sense of purpose that encourages interpersonal communication. Fostering these human needs also will help to establish an environment of accountability and trust, which goes hand in hand with employee satisfaction.

In addition to verbal communication, jotting down notes, reminders or messages for other staff members can help keep everyone on the same page, especially on busy days when employees don’t have as much time to sit down with co-workers or managers and talk in depth about patients’ health statuses or a topic of concern.

When health care settings have a shared governance model, nurses are able to participate in a lot of the decision-making that affects them and their practice. Knowing that sharing their ideas and experiences can make an impact influences nurses to communicate regularly. Holding frequent team meetings also provides employees with a designated time to discuss with a group of co-workers and leaders they trust what they believe is working or what can be improved within their practice.

The results of improved communication

According to a recent study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), ineffective communication contributes to poor patient safety and adverse events. In fact, the research found that 30 percent of the accidents that occur within health care settings result from a lack of communication.

Some of the common mistakes that lead to these incidents are failure to communicate with the appropriate individual and late communications that were no longer effective. Providing staff the opportunity to communicate through regular meetings and building a workplace around trust will reduce the frequency of these mistakes and can even lower the costs associated with longer bed stays, according to the AHRQ.

Nurse managers may want to consider implementing methods like video presentations, practice scenarios, SBAR practice worksheets and web-based training. These methods will help teach employees how to communicate clearly and effectively with their managers and co-workers and demonstrate the consequences of failed communication. They also provide workers with an opportunity to ask specific questions they may not have asked otherwise.

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