Meeting Unmet Nurse-Team Communication Needs

What's it like having a 'communication-fail' day for nurses? 

A nurse sees a no-IV-access order on a patient who is for surgery. It is in conflict with another order. She pages the surgeon concerned. After 3 hours, she still has not received a call from the physician, so she pages him again. After 30 minutes, the nurse has not received any call still and now wants to confirm if she has the right number. She contacts the surgery department. He is not there. So she asks for another contact number. Unfortunately, the number is not working. The nurse reaches his intern. No response. After 15 minutes, the nurse still does not receive any call, so she decides to contact the surgery floor team. The intern was finally informed, who calls back, but he has no knowledge about the patient's case. The intern tells the nurse that he would have to call again in a few minutes to do some verification. After 20 minutes, the intern contacts the nurse, and he resolves the issue for now. She still has to ask for confirmation with the surgeon concerned later within the day.

A 'communication-fail' day can be a typical day in a nurse's life. For many nurses, they are hungry for a solution that can help them on a day like this.  How badly do they feel a communication solution is needed?

  • 82% of nurses say that communication barriers have a high to very high impact on their efficiency at work
  • 60% of nurses say that they spend up to 10 hours of overtime each week due to time wasted locating patients and communicating with other members of the team.
  • 92% claim that communication lapses affect patient safety outcomes significantly
  • Nurses look for a communication tool with a ‘closed-loop’ and real-time feature to help them provide better care because they believe that improved communication among staff significantly improves patient engagement (source)

The above information indicates that there is a dire need for an efficient communication system or tool within the healthcare system to be able to deliver quality care. It also shows that the nurse's role in the healthcare team is unique, not only because they are responsible for most of the direct patient care, but also because they are the common port for communication within the healthcare team. Coordination happens through them, and they have the substantial share of physician's communications. This critical role of the nurse is the reason why healthcare delivery improvement should rightly consider centering on the important role of the nurse to be effective.

The healthcare delivery system must have a more strategic communication system designed to give immediate feedback. In most organizations, efforts are already in place or are underway to improve communication and collaboration through the use of the latest technology available. But the question is, are they specifically meeting nurses’ needs? The survey results say that the improvement in this area of healthcare delivery is still a big vessel to fill.

Formidable challenges hinder the move towards this change. As health care delivery shifts to value-based care, nurses take on more of the tasks of ensuring positive patient outcomes and satisfaction, increasing accountability with it. The added pressure, however, does not mean more quality time with patients. On the contrary, nurses are burdened with more administrative tasks, and this prevents proper communication from happening as initiated and coordinated by nurses. Less nurse-patient interaction means compromised patient outcomes and less patient satisfaction. More time wasted contacting other members of the healthcare team means more overtime work for the nurse, and less time for patient care, too.

So how does an organization help its nurses create a balance between administrative tasks and patient interaction? How can they be served so that their time is not wasted unnecessarily but rather shifted to patient care? You can help by developing or acquiring a communication system that meets their needs.

Nurses prefer an electronic communication tool in a single device with multiple functions. Functionalities preferred include:

  • One platform for the whole healthcare team

Team-organization must be an enabled feature. One person can add or delete a member, and they should be able to work on a single case, whereby each member's contributions can be noted.

  • Directories

This feature ideally should have names, designation, duty area and contact numbers of people in the institution.

  • Sending and receiving messages to the correct individual in real-time

The tool ideally should be able to locate staff or contact authorized people who could answer a query on a physician's behalf. It should be able to route messages in real-time for maximum effectiveness. Above all, the tool should enable feedback in response to the closed-loop feature that they seek.

  • Enabling communication across different settings by which the institution operates

This means that routing of messages and receiving of feedback should be enabled from acute care to a step-down facility, or from one branch to another, for example.

  • The tool should cut connection time

Time wasted on efforts trying to locate people or from getting an answer to a question should be significantly reduced. Saving time allows accomplishment of more important tasks such as patient care and learning.

 

Nurses are front-liners in healthcare delivery. Empowering them by giving them a communication tool that works is in line with the national goal of having improved patient safety outcomes. It is tantamount to organizational success. If you are advocating for change, the time to look into this aspect of change is now, because quite frankly, healthcare reform depends on closed-loop communication that is timely delivered.

 

 

Improving Patient Safety Through Provider Communication Strategy Enhancements

The High Cost of Nurses’ Communication Challenges

Communication: A Dynamic Between Nurses and Physicians