Communication In Nursing – The Importance of Tech
“Poor communication is one of the most common causes for dissatisfaction with health services. Research evidence shows the strong links between team communication and clinical outcomes.”
Any registered nurse will know just how important communication in nursing is. From explaining patient conditions to fellow health professionals, to helping colleagues who are over-stretched, to discussing scheduling and equipment usage in team meetings, every single day as a nurse requires countless instances of communication, all of which must be clear, compassionate and organised.
With the NHS under increasing pressure and employees having to cover for a staffing deficit, communication in nursing is becoming more important than ever. However, in the technological age, there are many ways to develop different approaches to communication in nursing. So what role does tech play in nursing communication, and how can it be used to improve patient experience and nurse welfare?
Choosing a communications system
With so many communication aids available to nurses today, it is vital that teams make the right choice for their needs. Anything overly-complicated will prove difficult to use, or require many hours of training for staff to understand. This is neither cost-effective or efficient. The aim of communications technology should be to alleviate the administrative burden for nurses, allowing them more time with their patients – not the other way around.
So how can nurse teams work out which tools will actually benefit them? The RCN advise nursing teams to consider five essential questions before adopting a communication intervention. These are:
- Is it easy to understand and follow?
- Is it consistent and predictable?
- Is it resilient – if the process fails in one part of the system can another part recover the error?
- Does it steer users to do the right thing in the right way?
- Does it reduce “work arounds” and reliance on memory?
These points indicate that communications technology in healthcare must not only be user-friendly but must also be reliable. After all, nurses are going to need to use these tools quickly while they work – and no-one wants to spend time refreshing pages, searching for fixes or looking for lost information.
The RCN’s guidelines also state that technology should not be used as a replacement for nursing best practice – but as a complementary aid. Technology must not be treated as a tool for providing a shortcut to skipping essential tasks, but should instead be used to support nurses in completing their vital work. By reducing the reliance on memory, many technological assets can increase cohesion within teams, accuracy in information sharing and efficiency in task-completion. All of this means a higher quality of care for patients.
SBAR – optimising communication in nursing
When using technology as a support to communication, nurses must keep the basic principles of interpersonal healthcare collaboration in mind as their guide. The most popular framework for ensuring this is adhered to is called the Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation (SBAR) formula.
This communication tool has been designed to support staff in communicating information in a clear, concise and focused manner. When sharing information, healthcare professionals are advised to lay out their message following the SBAR layout for ease of understanding and consistency. The framework can be broken down as follows:
Situation – First, nurses should identify themselves and the facility they are contacting from. Next, they should identify the patient in question by name and provide a reason for their report. This is when the healthcare professional should describe their concern.
Background – Next, nurses should provide background information on the patient’s reason for admission. They should explain any significant details of the patient’s medical history, background, admitting diagnosis, date of admission, former medical procedures, current medications, allergies, relevant laboratory results and other necessary data.
Assessment – At this stage, nurses should share the information they have established from their own assessments of the patient, including vital signs, clinical impressions and concerns. The nurse can also share any pertinent information about the patient’s emotional state.
Recommendation – Finally, the nurse must explain what they need in a specific manner, within a relevant time frame, sharing any suggestions they have and clarifying their expectations for follow-up.
Whether a nursing team is using a traditional method of communication such as phone contact and face-to-face meetings, or are implementing a more modern tool such as instant messaging or e-records, these principles should be followed to maximise the efficiency of the medium.
Technologies available to nurses
With the basics of communication in nursing covered, healthcare teams can begin to look at which forms of technology would be most beneficial to them. There are several innovations that fit into this category – many of them increasingly becoming the de-facto system for hospitals and GP surgeries.
Electronic health records
Electronic health records are now the standard in most UK healthcare settings. They store patient records on computers, providing instant access to the patient’s medical history, and giving access to prescriptions and testing services.
Clinical information systems
Clinical information systems store a facility’s patient records, pharmaceutical information, lab data, medical research resources and much more within one system. Nurses can use them to easily retrieve and input relevant information at any time.
Personal digital assistants
A PDA can be used by a nurse to check medical protocol on any number of issues, from researching conditions and checking medication dosages to keeping up-to-date with the latest nursing news via healthcare apps and the Internet. This allows nurses to consult secondary sources in relevant cases without having to take time away from a colleague or senior.
The most simple of computer-based tools such as tablets can be used by nurses to enter and retrieve information housed in the clinical information systems without having to physically go to an office. These tools often also connect to databases containing care guidelines and other clinical resources to support nurses’ decision-making and limit unnecessary deliberation.
Today, even medical devices can have communications technology embedded in them. For example, items like asthma smart inhalers can remind patients and caregivers when they should be taken by lighting up, and can even record the quality of each dose taken and report back to nurses to ensure medication compliance.
To find out more about how technology like the Nursco App can enhance communication in nursing, why not read the rest of the articles on the Nursco blog?