Flexwise Nurse discussing patient file with Doctor.

How to Improve Communication Between Your Nurse Staff

Nurse Communication Techniques for Better Patient Outcomes

In the Nursing Industry, effective, efficient communication is a core guiding principle. Improving communication has many advantages. Not only can it enhance job satisfaction, but it is also proven to save lives. Hospitals attribute 80% of sentinel events to a lack of communication.1 In addition to saving lives, better communication can help protect you and your facility from lawsuits. Startlingly, communication breakdown was identified in 31% of malpractice cases. There is clearly a need for improvement in communication amongst nurses. A standardized and widely accepted handoff tool such as SBAR can reduce the risk of leaving off important details at the end of a long shift.

Nonverbal Communication

Communication can be complicated and frequently, body language can send the wrong message. It is so important to be self-aware of our demeanor and consciously try to improve. Communication is much more than just the delivery of technical facts. In order to encourage sharing and learning there must be a feeling of safety, respect, positive energy, smiles, head nods, eye contact, tone of voice, taking turns talking, and providing a safe space to ask questions.

Verbal Communication

There is always room for polishing one's verbal and written communication as well. Learning standards for communicating between the nursing staff cannot be prioritized highly enough. This is especially evident in the nursing ritual known as the Handoff. Communication handoffs are critically important in creating a shared mental model around the patient’s condition. Root cause analysis has shown the need for a standardized approach to handoff communication.2 The Joint Commission advocates for a handoff standard such as SBAR.

S – Situation (a concise statement of the problem)

B – Background (pertinent and brief information related to the situation)

A – Assessment (analysis and considerations of options — what you found/think) 

R – Recommendation (action requested/recommended — what you want)

SBAR can be used in both oral and written form and helps focus the conversation to hit the major bits without leaving anything out. The R-recommendation is a new concept to a lot of nurses, I think it is important because it empowers and gives permission to the nurse to make suggestions. This tool is very helpful when giving a verbal or written report to an oncoming nurse or physician.

1 Joint commission on accreditation of healthcare organizations. Sentinel event data/root causes by event type (2004-3Q2011). HTTP://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/18/root_Causes_event_type_2004-3Q2011.PDF
2 Haig KM, Sutton S, Whittington J. SBAR: A shared mental model for improving communication between clinicians. Jr Comm J Qual Patient Saf 2006;32:167-75.