6 Tips for Effective Professional Communication
Few jobs rely as heavily on professional communication as nursing. In most professions, a communication error could lead to wasted time and effort or at worst, a significant loss of money. In nursing, a communication error could lead to significant injury to a patient or even death. Adding to the complexity of communication is the amount of communication that surrounds each patient’s care. The average nurse will communicate with physicians, other nurses, nursing assistants, pharmacists, and other specialists to ensure the highest level of care for a single patient. Now consider number multiplied by a daily assignment of 3-5 patients.
In spite of the complexity of professional communication for the average nurse, the travel nurse will need to be an above average communicator for several reasons. The process of taking new assignments every few months forces travel nurses to learn how to communicate with new colleagues. After three or four months at a new job you would be building relationships with staff and learning how to communicate with each of them effectively. Travel nurses are in a continual cycle of learning how and who to communicate to with each assignment.
The most effective way to ensure professional communication occurs for your patients is to become an effective communicator yourself. Becoming an effective and bold communicator can even eliminate the negative impact of poor communication. Being an effective communicator will make you an all-around better nurse and increase your marketability as a travel nurse. Let’s discuss six tips to increase the effectiveness of your professional communication.
1. Know and Write Down Key Resources
Sometimes a barrier to effective communication is knowing who to communicate information to and how to get a hold of them. Communication between facilities will vary drastically. As a travel nurse, this can make it difficult to know who to communicate with and how. If you do not know who are the important contacts for your patient you need to find them as soon as possible. Don’t leave bedside report until you have these resources or immediately go to the charge nurse. Keep track of these key contacts. Consider making a list of key resources and keeping them accessible by placing them on the back side of your badge or in your pocket for quick reference. These resources should be viewed as gold as they allow you to act quickly with the right person for anything concerning your patient.
2. Utilize SBAR Format
The greatest common denominator for effective communication amongst healthcare staff is the SBAR formation (situation, background, assessment, recommendation). This will be as universal as it gets across different facilities you visit as a travel nurse. Therefore, get in the habit of utilizing the SBAR format unless directly told otherwise. Whether communicating with a fellow nurse during a handoff or with a physician when expressing concerns over a patient’s status, the SBAR format should be an openly accepted form of communication.
3. Share Only What’s Important
People have a tendency to share a lot more information that is truly necessary. Nurses must understand that more communication doesn’t always equal better communication. Effective communicators understand what information is important and share that information while leaving behind information that is irrelevant and not pertinent to the situation. When communicating with colleagues, they will appreciate your ability to highlight information they should know and not give them information that they don’t need. This principal is important in all forms of communication no matter how big or small.
4. Utilize Reflective Practices
Reflective practices have been demonstrated to increase learning. When communicating with other staff, take a brief moment and evaluate how well you think you communicated. What could you have done differently? What information was missed or should have been left out? Additionally, when you have the opportunity to interact with a colleague who is an effective communicator, take a mental note of what made them an effective communicator. Was it their positive attitude, calm demeanor, pointed information they shared, or something else? Then you can incorporate those elements of professional communication into your skill set.
5. Consider How You’re Being Perceived
Research has confirmed that an enormous amount of communication has nothing to do with what is being said. Rather, things such as actions, gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice drastically impact the message you are trying to convey. These nonverbal messages have power to promote acceptance or rejection of your message. Admittedly, healthcare is a complex and stressful environment where nurses and other healthcare professionals are justified in their negative feelings, yet a good communicator will not let a bad day or poor relationship influence their professional communication. We have all tried to communicate with someone who is ineffective at giving or receiving communication and it can be difficult and frustrating! Use non-verbals to increase the effectiveness of your professional communication rather than letting it hinder your professional communication.
6. Why is This Important to the Patient?
Often missing in communication is – why this is important to the patient. Quite often this might be implied when a patient is in pain but adding the why can further advocate for the patient and increase clarity. Consider the following communication: “my patient is requesting some pain medications as their abdominal pain has increased.” Adding to the end of the sentence the “why” would complete the communication nicely. Consider adding something such as “I’d appreciate if we could get my patient’s pain under control before they go to bed to promote rest and healing.” Relating everything back to the patient takes communication full circle.
Travel nurses who have excellent professional communication skills will make their transitions between assignments easier and will provide better care overall. Incorporate these techniques into your communication to become an effective professional communicator.