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Effects of Poor Communication Patterns Between Nurses & Providers

By Nicole Kraut RN

Effective communication is an essential component of quality health care. It is well known that there is a strong correlation between the communication skills of healthcare providers and patient health outcomes. Nurses are at the forefront of patient care; therefore, they are responsible for communicating patient information to any providers involved in a patient’s plan of care. It is essential to patient safety and outcomes that effective communication occurs between nurses and providers.

Why Poor Communication Occurs

Poor communication between nurses and providers can occur for a variety of reasons, either intentionally or unintentionally. Healthcare can be very unpredictable, complicated, and stressful.  Patient needs can arise unexpectedly and a patient’s condition can change very rapidly. The unpredictability and urgency that occurs when caring for patients can lead to unplanned communication between providers, which leads to a communication breakdown.

Too Much Info, Too Quickly

An example of a poor communication pattern that occurs during a stressful situation is when a provider provides as much information as possible, as quickly as possible. For example, a patient’s health is rapidly declining. The nurse phones the physician and quickly provides as much information as possible, such as vital signs, the patient’s history, medications given, and any events leading up to the patient’s current state. While all of this information is important for the provider to know, any lack of organization or logic to what the nurse is saying may cause the provider to lose attention and dismiss the nurse’s concerns.

Hesitation Due to Power Differential

Another poor communication pattern that occurs is when a nurse is hesitant to ensure their concerns are being heard and acted on. Unfortunately, a culture of hierarchy and power differential between nurses and physicians still exists in many institutions. If a nurse makes a recommendation or brings an issue to the attention of the physician, and their recommendation or concern is dismissed, many nurses many not feel comfortable repeating themselves.

The Impact of Poor Communication

Poor communication between nurses and other health care providers can have a significant negative effect on patient safety, quality of care, patient outcomes, and patient as well as staff satisfaction. An organization should ensure several interventions are in place in order to ensure effective communication between health care providers. Leaders should promote an organizational culture  which is patient centered and focused on safety. In addition, leaders should be supportive of open communication and promote the use of communication tools between health care providers. Once interventions are in place to break down the patterns of poor communication, safe, patient centered care can occur.

About the Author

Nicole Kraut is a nurse working in Chicago, Illinois, who writes for us regularly about her experiences as an early-to-mid career nurse. She has been a RN for over five years.

Nicole graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Loyola University Chicago and recently obtained a Master of Science in Nursing with an Emphasis in Nursing Education from Grand Canyon University. She “was inspired to become a nurse because I wanted to work in a career field in which I could make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. I feel nursing is my vocation and am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience in order to positively influence others.”

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