Similar to other sectors, the health care sector has experienced numerous transformations over the years attributable to changes in technology. Despite the fact that technology benefits nursing practitioners in many ways, it has also been blamed for creating a complex operating environment. Typically, a patient admitted into a hospital facility may be required to interact with many practitioners including nurses, doctors, and technicians. As a result, effectiveness can only be realized if the information is accurately passed from one nurse to another while caring for a patient. In the absence of effective communication, the safety of patients is certainly at risk. Failure to receive vital information at the right time, for example, can lead to unnecessary deaths in hospitals. Giving vague instructions over the telephone is equally dangerous.
Problems arising from poor communication among nursing practitioners are quite rampant in the present health care sector and apparently, this has been worsened by technological advancements. According to Dare (2009), health care providers consider the use of electronic health care systems as a vital step toward ensuring that patients are diagnosed properly, procedures and tests are not duplicated, and patients are safe. Without effective communication and management of records such records, however, wrong information may be exchanged among nurses and the outcome may be unpleasant. It is thus imperative to have an effective system that facilitates smooth communication throughout the hospital.
Importance of Communication in the Nursing Profession
Typically, the nursing profession involves interaction with different classes of people in society. On a daily basis, nurses are expected to communicate with colleagues, doctors, and patients among many others (Anderson, 2013). On several occasions, a nurse may be in possession of so much information that must be disseminated to patients, colleagues, or supervisors. Consequently, a proper communication channel must be in place to ensure that the information is delivered properly.
Without a doubt, the survival of patients relies so much on the existence of an effective communication system. This notwithstanding, communication within the nursing profession comes with numerous challenges that may lead to serious errors besides affecting the general delivery of services to patients. Dues to ineffective communication, nurses may fail to receive important instructions and consequently, patients may not receive the required treatment or medication.
Generally, patients and their family members trust health care providers to deliver quality services (Anderson, 2013). As a result, winning the trust of patients and their family members is very critical in the nursing profession if nurses are to continue taking care of patients. The moment patients and family members doubt the commitment of service providers they cease to take their instructions seriously. The need for honesty and effective communication in the nursing profession can thus not be underestimated. Hospitals must work hard to ensure that communication takes place efficiently. Apart from being educated on the need for effective communication, nursing practitioners must be equipped with vital skills for ensuring that they can effectively communicate with colleagues as well as patients and their family members. Moreover, nurses must be completely honest as they interact with patients under their care.
Communication Challenges in the Nursing Profession
By and large, effective communication in the nursing profession is concerned with making sure that correct information gets to the correct recipient in good time and right format. In general, however, nursing communication is often poor and uncoordinated. Sadly, the negative repercussions have very serious implications for the overall safety of patients.
Most communication challenges faced by nurses in the present health care sector often interfere with their efficiency and cause major problems for patients. It is thus important for individuals responsible for health matters to devise strategies that can improve communication among stakeholders in the nursing profession. Research findings indicate that ineffective communication leads to wastage of time and increases response time (Dare, 2009). Nurses are thus forced to spend so much time trying to pass on important information.
Drawing from a study by Flicek (2012), multiple communication challenges are faced by nurses while on duty. This is further worsened by the fact that there are many interruptions and patient handoffs that make nurses appear ineffective in providing services to patients. Ineffective communication also denies nurses the opportunity to connect with colleagues and this leads to loss of trust that affects their relationships. Considering that nursing professionals can get so busy, taking time to communicate efficiently is a challenge most of the time, and alternatives must be sought.
Scores of nurses in the medical profession have also been affected by the use of advanced technology that normally creates a digital divide. Despite the fact that technology provides critical features and functions for nurses to offer better services, it also poses a serious challenge to medical practitioners. While some professionals find it easy to work with improved technology, others experience difficulties and would rather rely on the traditional approach. In addition, the use of technology has been blamed for the breakdown in communication that often leads to countless mistakes (Flicek, 2012). If not used properly, the use of text messages or electronic management systems can be a source of numerous errors. It is possible for a nurse to misinterpret a text message or for a data entry clerk to key in wrong information about a patient. Eventually, this affects how a patient is treated. Depending on the magnitude of error, a patient may be subjected to mild or serious injuries. In some cases, a message sent may fail to reach the intended recipient and action may not be taken. Failure of communication equipment can also interfere with the ability to communicate effectively. Due to such lapses in communication, the safety of patients is jeopardized. In the event that a nurse is required to delegate part of his or her work to a colleague, the delegation process must be handled in a professional manner to avoid any negative consequences being encountered. The person being delegated to must also ensure that everything is well understood before embarking on any task.
Although nursing practitioners often speak about working as a team, more often than not, they work independently (Kelly, Vottero, & Christie-McAuliffe, 2014). Arguably, this hinders efforts to improve communication. In general, barriers may be encountered for various reasons including generational differences, individual personality traits, culture, ethnic background, and gender. If effective communication is to take place, those in charge of health matters must come up with strategies for dealing with communication barriers. Communication barriers among nursing practitioners must be eliminated by all means. Failure to do so puts the safety of patients at risk and may lead to unnecessary deaths. Where possible, stakeholders should organize forums where nursing practitioners can freely exchange ideas for the benefit of all those in the profession.
In general, communication lapses will lead to poor treatment and mistrust among nurses besides the fact that patients are made to suffer. Moreover, the productivity level of nurses is greatly affected and the safety of patients is compromised.
Dealing with Communication Problems
As has been explained, poor communication is to blame for a number of problems encountered by nurses while delivering services to their clients. Productivity of the nurses is affected, patients are put at risk, the quality of work done by nurses declines, nurses experience burnout, and the quality of their work-life is significantly affected.
It has been alleged that changes in technology help to create an environment where nursing professionals can excel and do a remarkable job. Technology can be used to improve communication, manage important patient records, and synchronize the work done by different nursing professionals. Generally, keeping important medical records in a central database accessible to all is a sure way of boosting communication among nursing professionals. Centralized storage helps to make sure that all those involved in taking care of a patient get information about him or her from the same place. Clearly, this eliminates any form of confusion and greatly simplifies the treatment process. Using technology, many hospitals have managed to improve the level of communication among nurses. Nursing professionals are also able to communicate easily with colleagues as well as patients. Undoubtedly, this facilitates smooth communication among stakeholders and guarantees the provision of quality health care services to clients.
Mobile phone technology is mostly considered user-friendly and thus easy to use by many nursing professionals. The fact that mobile phones can easily be carried around by individuals presents nurses with a readily available communication channel at all times. For this reason, nurses are able to communicate with colleagues or even patients whenever necessary. Beyond any reasonable doubt, this improves communication and enables nurses to consult colleagues at any time. Consequently, the life of patients is not jeopardized and nursing professionals can enjoy doing their job with comfort.
By and large, the outcome of health care providers depends so much on effective communication. Ineffective communication tends to have serious implications for nursing professionals as well as patients. While the life of patients is put at risk, nursing professionals suffer from various problems including burnout and stress. As a result, it is essential for those in the health care industry to commit time to investigate the cause of communication breakdown and determine how best to improve communication among nursing professionals and patients.
Although the use technology has been associated with great benefits for nursing professionals and the entire medical sector, it is imperative for hospitals to understand the exact role of technology in improving communication and productivity among nurses. Before adopting any technology, stakeholders must ask a number of questions to determine their readiness to use a particular technology. Hospitals should ensure that employees are comfortable using the technology and in the event that a nurse is afraid of technology, efforts must be made to him or her to adapt to the use of technology. Such nurses should be trained appropriately and encouraged to utilize technology to improve the quality of their services.
Anderson, L. (2013). Why Communication in the Nursing Profession is Important. Web.
Dare, F. (2009). The High Cost of Nurses’ Communication Challenges. Web.
Flicek, C. L. (2012). Communication: A Dynamic between Nurses and Physicians. MEDSURG Nursing, 21(6), 385 – 387.
Kelly, P., Vottero, B. A. & Christie-McAuliffe, C. (2014). Introduction to Quality and Safety Education for Nurses: Core Competencies. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.