Effective Communication in the Hospital


Are you aware that a patient may have interactions with 50 different healthcare providers during a 4-day hospital stay? These interactions include doctors, nurses, technicians, and others.  Effective communication and team collaboration are essential for safe patient care. In today’s high-tech health care system this communication is vital.

Sadly healthcare providers don’t talk to each other as often as they should. They don’t collaborate with each other about patient needs.  Communication with the patient is often ignored. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), these failures cause of 70% of sentinel events.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing tracks causes of patient care errors committed by nurses.  Nurses mention communication problems with doctors as one of the two highly contributing factors of patient care errors.

In this ever changing healthcare system with complex patient needs effective communication is a must.  Why then is there still low levels of communication between healthcare professionals?

What are the Challenges?

  • Healthcare professionals tend to work independently. We have their own understanding of what a patient needs.
  • The  hierarchy of nurse-doctor relationship .  Nurses have felt intimidated and pressured to give medication and not voice their concerns resulting in errors.
  • Training for nurses and doctors that does not include working with each ocommunication-collaboratingther in highly stressful environments.

How do we change this?

We need to change this culture to encourage doctors and nurses to communicate and collaborate as a team. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Address the Situation

The first step is to be willing to address the issue. Nurses have a tendency to be timid in working with doctors.  Be assertive but not rude.  Speak with the confidence of one who knows the patient and has knowledge to addressw your concern.

  • Create a Friendly Environment

Work to create an environment where individuals feel comfortable questioning each other.  You want to work in a place without feeling intimidated and that may mean less formality.

  • Focused Team Training Programs

The goal is to establish a culture of respect, trust and accountability.  Team training that encourages open communication and shared decision making to minimize the risk of errors.  Include methods to improve collaboration between doctors and nurses.

Doctors and nurses alike can make mistakes.  Constructive feedback and the ability to question medical decisions in a safe environment can reduce errors and improve patient care. Get to know the team you work with and know each members name,  your patient’s health comes first above your personal pride.

  • Practice Collaboration

As nurses we work in a stressful environment with professional diversity so conflicts and differing opinions are inevitable.  Be willing to look at another point of view and analyze the effectiveness.  You may find that a fresh insight or solution to a problem is the result.

Nurses all know that doctor who does not trust, respect or collaborate with nursing staff or one another.  Those doctors are more likely to make mistakes that can affect patient safety.  We as healthcare professionals need to work constantly to improve communication skills.  We need to foster an environment that support collaboration.

As a travel nurse it is important to make a good first impression and find your place on the team.  Be confident in your nursing skills and do not be intimidated.


Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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