Nurse-Physician Communication

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Nurse-Physician Communication

What is the impact of technology?

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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As the unfortunate events surrounding the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States have recently illustrated, communication problems within the clinical setting can be devastating. A timely new study, now underway at the University of Michigan, is taking a closer look at doctor-nurse communications to find ways to reduce misunderstandings.

“I Said, ‘Stat!’”

The focus of the study is on the use and impact of communication technology. While such technology promises increased efficiency, some nurses and doctors who’ve been practicing since before the introduction of today’s electronic systems have long complained that the technology can supplant and even undermine traditional human interaction.

Researchers are finding that impression may be correct. “In general, as electronic communication has increased, the face-to-face communication between practitioners has decreased,” says principal investigator Milisa Manojlovich, RN, Ph.D., CCRN, “and that has created occasions for crucial information to be passed incorrectly or not at all.”

As an example, Manojlovich describes a situation in which physicians place stat orders in the computer without notifying nurses in any other way, not realizing that hospital policy only requires nurses to check the computer for new orders every two hours. In such cases, both sides are following policy, but the result is still that orders are not acknowledged and acted upon in a timely fashion, which could have serious implications for patients.

Driving Recommendations

The study’s goal is to make recommendations for hospital IT departments. Researchers hope the results will improve the functionality of electronic systems and identify ways to increase the speed and accuracy of problem recognition, identification and diagnosis to reduce risks to patient safety.

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