by Jennifer Unsworth | Senior Manager, Client Services
According to LinkedIn, nursing is the fifth-most in-demand job in the country and the American Nurses Association reported that more RN jobs would be available than any other job in the US in 2022. So why is the country amid a nursing staff crisis? A new report by Vocera, now a part of Stryker, cites a breakdown in communication as the primary issue.
According to the report, completed in 2021, the top five issues around communication include:
- Communication delays leading to frustration.
- Lack of resources that fuel complexity around communication.
- Interpersonal challenges.
- Poor communication leading to misalignment of purpose.
- Fragmented technology.
Communication delays lead to frustration among nurses, contribute to medical errors, can increase patient length of stay, increase costs, and can cause serious adverse events within the healthcare setting as shown in multiple studies. Nurses are the segment of the team that ensures efficiency in the treatment, comfort, and care of the patient and significantly affects patient outcomes. According to the survey, any delay in interprofessional communication that leaves unanswered questions about the care of patients can cause nurses to become frustrated and cause them to question their abilities as a healthcare professional. This frustration and subsequent decrease in confidence levels stemming from poor communication can contribute to nurses exiting the profession.
The lack of resources is a circular problem. With a significant number of nurses leaving the healthcare profession, nurse to patient ratios are on the rise. The increase in patient load causes nurses to have a decrease in in-depth knowledge of their patients and time constraints when communicating the needs of the patient. Additionally, as physicians become overloaded with patients and labs are stressed, nurses experience delays in response time from providers and results from labs, therefore fueling the complexity of communication issues. For instance, a nurse that took part in the Vocera survey stated, “it feels like you’re in an endless waiting game.”
Interprofessional challenges in communication have unfortunately survived the test of time. These challenges include an array of professions, however, communication and collaboration between nurses and physicians are often viewed as a physician-nurse game and can have a negative impact on patient care and the retention of nurses. According to an article in the American Nurse Journal (2008), 40 to 80% of nurses have had a physician yell at them and 96% of nurses experienced some sort of disruptive behavior from a physician. This can impact the mental health of nurses, their state of mind, and overall happiness in their career.
A lack in role definition, deficient policy and procedures, absence of standardization, and poor shift reports are communication errors that can lead to a misalignment of purpose and can negatively affect patient care and outcomes. Misalignment of purpose may lead nurses to perform duties outside of their scope, increase medical errors and push nurses into performing non-evidence based tasks and procedures.
Fragmented technology seen within a healthcare setting is truly unbelievable given the incredible advances that have been seen just in the past decade. However, with multiple dead spots, malfunctioning equipment, the unreliability of physician’s in reviewing EHR’s, continual erroneous alarms and alerts, the exhaustive amount of detailed EHR charting required by nurses and outdated systems can create exasperation and dissatisfaction among nurses. Technology, long promised to make work easier, can sometimes offer too many options, or not work properly, causing nurses to feel defeated.
So what’s the solution? Although nurses are experts at working through problems, communication needs to have a disciplined strategy that is supported by technology, and which can unify teams and foster collaboration. This will support healthcare settings to adequately staff their organization and to attract and retain top talent.
Nurses need to be a part of the conversation when it comes to the next communication solution. They must be able to reach who they need to, when they need to and in a way that does not impede their workflow. Nurses are unique as they easily adapt to a chaotic and changing environment while working alongside a variety of disciplines in the healthcare environment. They are the front-line staff that saves lives and need to be empowered to fulfill best practice standards through effective communication.
As the report concludes: A standardized communication platform for the entire care team sends a powerful message that “we’re all on the same team.” With that foundational message, nurse leaders can work with their clinical leadership counterparts to define, train, and reward interdisciplinary teamwork and build a culture of respectful communication and collaboration – one in which all team members are aligned around delivering an exceptional care experience to patients and their loved ones.