Those who work in the nursing field understand the vital role of having excellent communication skills and the ability to truly listen to their patient and coworkers so that they can provide the best care to their patients and keep the doctors, nurses, medical specialists and other healthcare providers informed about the treatment and care of individual patients.
In a place where an individual’s health and well-being is largely determined by the level of cooperation amongst nurses and other medical professionals who are assisting them few things are more important than education, training and open communication.
Poor communication can often lead to big mistakes such as prescribing the wrong medication, improper diagnosis of a patients ailment or medical condition, administering the wrong treatment plans and in some cases even death of a patient due to misinformation or a lack of communication.
Types of miscommunication
In order to properly assess, diagnose and treat patients hospitals and health care facilities need to have systems in place in order to make sure everyone is communicating everything effectively to one another.
In situations where poor communication is present one of several factors is usually missing from the group or medical team.
Some of the factors that can contribute to poor communication include:
Fear – One common reason for poor communication has to do with a nurse having a lack of comfort or fear in communicating with another nurse or doctor.
These type of issues can occur when a nurse feels threatened by a coworker, fears the possibility of making a mistake and doesn’t saying anything to avoid judgement or lacks confidence in his/her abilities as a competent nurse.
Exhaustion/Overload – When nurses work long shifts for extended periods of time it can cause fatigue, which lowers their focus, effectiveness and ability to communicate effectively with patients and staff.
While the best way for nurses to combat fatigue is to get plenty of R&R and take frequent breaks whenever fatigue starts to set in it is often easier said then done, especially in hospitals or healthcare facilities where nursing shortages occur frequently.
A lack of quality information – Because effective communication requires understanding the situation in full (such as the importance of reading the full records and history of a patients medical condition) nurses and doctors who receive only partial information are more pron to making mistakes and/or errors because they do not understand the entire situation and because possible vital information may be left out.
Miscommunication – Miscommunication can be compared to the telephone game often played by children.
The first person in the group is told one thing and by the time that statement or sentence reaches the last person in the group it ends up being completely different from what the first person was told.
The same thing can easily happen at a hospital or healthcare facility where several people are working together on a project or patient.
If records aren’t being kept up to date and people aren’t communicating effectively and openly in groups miscommunication can easily occur.
Education/ Experience gaps – An education or experience gap can occur when a less educated/experienced nurse works with another medical professional who is much more educated and/or experienced and has trouble understanding the concepts, procedures and/or medical terminology used by the more experienced medical professional.
These types of gaps can lead to confusion, misinterpretation, inaction and errors due to the inability to communicate effectively and fully understand what is being communicated.
Emotional stress – Nurses who are dealing with a lot of emotional stress or a trauma may have difficulty focusing or expressing/communicating their feelings, perceptions, beliefs and attitude towards certain situations, which can cause mistakes to occur and/or reduce the amount of attention they are able to put towards their work, patients and co workers.
How to improve communication between nurses and doctors
In order to improve communication amongst nurses and doctors there needs to be regular daily and weekly collaborative discussions focused on how to best provide medical care to the patients they care for since patients are the primary reason everyone is working.
By focusing on providing excellent medical care to patients nurses can feel more comfortable and collaborate better with one another and with other medical specialists in their field.
In many cases good communication starts with the human resources department, supervisors and management.
Those who work in higher levels of healthcare need to make sure they are making the working environment a comfortable and open experience for nurses otherwise they risk nurses withholding information because of a fear of judgement, embarrassment or guilt.
Nurses should be supported in speaking about their concerns and be genuinely thanked for expressing their thoughts and opinions.
If nurses feel uncomfortable speaking openly to their supervisors and managers about issues they believe are important then there is much more opportunities for miscommunication and errors to occur.
It’s also important to have a strong support group and deal with any rising issues immediately to before they become bigger problems.
Strong support groups help nurses reduce the emotional toll their job and personal life can have on them and create trust, open communication and feelings of accomplishment.
Many hospitals and healthcare facilities also use checklists to ensure that nurses and doctors accomplish all of their work functions in an efficient and effective manner and to ensure that they are providing each patient with the best medical care possible.
In addition to building effective communication systems it is vital that nurses get sufficient rest, especially at hospitals or healthcare facilities where nursing shortages frequently occur.
If nurses become too fatigued it can cause them to make more mistakes, communicate less effectively and ultimately hurt their health, which creates more problems and leads to less medical care for the patients.