Communication remains an incredibly important factor in the workplace. As a powerful tool, we often believe we just have it. We communicate continuously in our lives, so what is there more to know? In the workplace, especially in healthcare, the importance of communication can, in cases like this, be life or death. Or at least have the potential to be dangerous if not done correctly. Though this may be an overstatement in other fields, honing in on effective communication can really lay the foundation for continued success as a nurse.
This can be noted in a study that was conducted by research and analysis firm CRICO strategies. They found Communication problems were a contributing factor in 7,149 cases (30 percent) of 23,000 medical malpractice claims filed between 2009 and 2013.”Furthermore that 30% included, “1,744 deaths and $1.7 billion in hospital costs.”A staggering amount is purely based on a lack of communication. Especially when “37 percent of all high-severity injury cases involved communication failures.”
As a travel nurse who dips in and out of hospitals in 13 – week intervals, your communication is a viable factor in how you work with your co-workers and how you interact with brand-new patients. Especially when you are new to the facility, the way the hospital works, working with a new demographic and needing to adapt to your surroundings as quickly as possible. Effective communication is key, and we should be doing our best to continue evolving our styles and focus in on any aspects we can improve on.
Why Is Communication So Important In Healthcare?
- In order to assess a patient’s response to treatment, they must be able to verbally communicate effectively and be able to pick up on any non-verbal cues.
- Strong communication between healthcare teams can immensely reduce the risk of error.
- Openly and confidently communicating with patients and their loved ones helps to relieve stress and can improve patient outcomes.
- Concise communication with patients can help to determine if any social constructs are impacting their health.
- For all nurses to understand the emotional and physical well-being of a patient, they must be able to openly and efficiently communicate everything that has and is occurring.
What Can You Do To Improve Your Communication?
1. Collaborate with Your Co-Workers.
A team on the court or field work together to achieve their goal, which is usually to win. The same goes in the workplace. It is vital that open communication is able to be had so that fellow nurses can ask questions or discuss their concerns confidently. On top of this, of course, it is also for the safety of patients. Being able to efficiently hand over information to another nurse is crucial. It will be able to successfully have everyone on the same page as you in case there are any changes or decisions needing to be made.
You can help make this a comfortable situation for other nurses by not showing any judgment to questions or concerns. In school, we were told no question is a dumb question, and that type of openness should be shown to your coworkers too. There is also the SBAR method which stands for:
S = Situation
B = Background
A = Assessment
R = Recommendation
And the I-PASS mnemonic stands for:
I = Illness severity
P = Patient summary
A = Action list
S = Situation awareness and contingency planning
S = Synthesis by receiver
2. Adjusting To The Demographic
Communication with your patients is an incredibly significant skill for travel nurses to thrive in. While you may end up in California one assignment and New York the next, you are inevitably speaking to two very different types of people. Not only due to the style of the state (i.e. California is seen as a more relaxed state while New York is a fast-paced big city.) but also the health literacy, cultural roots, education and fear. Which can all impact how a patient interprets what you are saying.
To help you stay ahead of the masses, use the following tips to help your communication with your patients flourish.
- Look directly at your patient, introduce yourself and speak to your patient by name.
- Try not to let any outside distractions (documentation or duties) distract you from giving your patient your full attention.
- Be conscious of your body language.
- If unsure, try to repeat back what you think they have said or ask for clarity.
- Efficiently explain your decisions.
- Speak slowly and clearly. You can also make sure that English is their strongest language.
- Ask patients to repeat what you have said to them, so you can see if they have understood.
- Determine whether your patient is able to understand instructions. Otherwise pulling in family members or finding someone to translate can help.
3. YOU As A Communicator
We often don’t realize how much our body moves and changes while we communicate. Sometimes what we think are the most subtle sounds or innocent reactions could make someone feel as though you are not communicating with them properly. As a nurse, making your patient feel as comfortable and safe as they can is of the utmost importance. You can do this by:
- Using your eye contact to let patients know you are focused and listening to them intently. If you start looking around or becoming distracted by the surroundings, patients can feel as though they are not being listened to or that what they are saying is not essential to you.
- Listen to what they are saying and reacting to their words is very important. This can include nodding your head, and occasionally entering with words like “yes” or “okay.”Any signals you can stretch to your patient to help them understand you are understanding what they are saying will make them feel very heard.
- Your work day is crazy, you probably have 100 things to do and 100 things on your mind. When a patient is trying to explain something to you, they don’t see that side. While it can be hard, practice patience when listening to a patient’s symptoms or needs. Some people take longer to share or process information. That doesn’t mean they are any less deserving of your ears.
- Verify your information by giving and receiving feedback. This allows you to understand that both you and your patient have understood, acknowledge and trust the information that has been communicated between the two of you. This also allows for any follow-up questions or concerns to be asked openly in order for you both to be on the same page.
At the end of the day, communication is one of the most critical factors in the healthcare industry. Without it, we can be looking at a lot of missteps in a field that is very prone to having them. Communication with fellow nurses and patients is going to allow for you to transition smoothly in and out of hospitals, all while picking up different styles and skills of communication that will boost your career. We all do it, but doing it efficiently is what we should be reaching for.