Medical professionals are in the business of saving lives, but there is a lot that can go wrong along the way. One of the most common causes of medical errors is miscommunication between doctors and nurses. In this article, we’ll explore some pitfalls in nurse/doctor communication and what you can do to avoid them.
There’s a culture clash.
One of the main issues that can come up between a nurse and a doctor is a clash in values, beliefs, and attitudes. These clashes are often due to cultural differences between nurses and doctors. Nurses from other countries may have different ideals about patients than American doctors do. They might also not understand why an American doctor would want to be so hands-off with his/her patients.
Another reason for these conflicts is that the medical industry often follows an order of hierarchy—and this hierarchy does not always translate well into hospitals where doctors must rely on nurses for their care. Not only does this create tension between doctors and nurses but it also leads to miscommunication because there are many things that doctors simply won’t ask or tell their nurses out of respect for their position within the medical field hierarchy (i.e., “The doctor said…).
The medical profession is hierarchical by nature.
Communication is a two-way street, but doctors are more likely to give orders than nurses. In fact, the medical field is hierarchical by nature—it’s not uncommon for physicians to have higher education degrees and greater experience working in hospitals or other health care facilities. Because of this, doctors are often seen as the experts, which can make it difficult for nurses to speak up if they disagree with what their doctor says or does.
Doctors may also be seen as authority figures and decision-makers—this means that patients tend to trust them (and therefore listen when they give advice). In contrast, some patients may see nurses as subordinates who lack autonomy and power within their workplace environment (and thus aren’t able to make decisions on behalf of others).
Nurses may feel like they’re putting themselves at risk by speaking up against their doctor’s orders; however: it’s important for them not only because it helps ensure better patient outcomes but because it preserves their well-being too!
Doctors and nurses both play big roles in patient care, but doctors have more responsibility for individual patients.
Doctors are responsible for the overall care of the patient, while nurses are responsible for the immediate care of the patient. Doctors are also expected to diagnose and treat their patients’ illnesses or injuries, while nurses may help with diagnosis and treatment plans but will often be delegated to implementing these plans. Because of their different responsibilities and skill sets, doctors need to communicate with nurses effectively to make sure that they’re able to do everything necessary to keep their patients safe and healthy.
The stakes are high.
The patient is at the center of everything workers do in healthcare. But sometimes, communication breaks down and those who are closest to the patient won’t even know it.
You’re a nurse, doctor, or other healthcare provider and you may be saying “we’ve got this.” You might think your role is only to explain things clearly, but that’s not really true—you have an obligation to follow up on what patients tell you, too! It’s not just about you being clear and concise; it’s about making sure your patients understand what you said as well. This means listening carefully for understanding before moving on.
Sometimes, with time constraints and multi-tasking pressures (not to mention our natural tendency toward self-preservation), we get so focused on conveying information that we forget about checking for understanding along the way—or even afterward! But if something isn’t clear from one conversation with a patient or family member—if there’s any doubt whatsoever in your mind about whether they understood what you told them—it doesn’t mean anything until someone else has confirmed it was communicated correctly.
Doctors have a lot more training in communicating than nurses do.
They’re trained in medical school, nursing school, and during residency. Their responsibilities are greater, so they have more experience with patient care and more authority to speak on behalf of their patients. Doctors are also in charge of the patient much more often than nurses—they’re often responsible for ordering tests or medicines or making decisions about operating rooms. In short: doctors know what they’re doing when it comes to talking with patients!
In contrast…nurses aren’t trained nearly as extensively as physicians are when it comes to communicating effectively with others (and especially other professionals). It’s not uncommon for a nurse who has worked at one hospital her entire career never having received any kind of formal training on how to best share information with another professional! Nursing schools rarely offer courses designed specifically around improving communication skills either; instead, most focus on technical skills like administering medications or changing bandages.
Both doctors and nurses work under huge time pressures.
You may be surprised to know that time pressure is a common problem for both the nurses and doctors on your team.
As a nurse, you’re likely under pressure to get information to your doctor quickly and efficiently. This can lead to rushed communications with your doctor, who is often under pressure to make decisions quickly because of an urgent patient situation. As a result, both parties are less likely to take the time they need in order to fully understand each other’s perspectives and points of view. The result? Communication breakdowns that may lead to misdiagnoses and delayed treatment plans, which could put your patients at risk!
The best way for you (the nurse) or any other medical professional like yourself working within this environment is by establishing open lines of communication with everyone involved–even if it means getting off schedule for a few minutes here or there during busy times at work!
Miscommunication happens, even when everyone is doing their best.
Communication is a two-way street, and it can be difficult to be fully heard when you’re in an intense or stressful situation. You may even have a hard time clearly explaining yourself to the person on the other end of the conversation. We’ve covered some common pitfalls that can occur in doctor/patient communication, but there are also some things that you need to keep in mind as well:
When you’re stressed out or anxious, it’s hard to communicate clearly and effectively with others—and yes, this applies both ways (for example, if your doctor is worried about telling you something).
The more tired you are, the less likely it is that your brain will be at peak performance when interacting with others—especially if those interactions involve complex information like medical jargon! Your ability to process information quickly and accurately may take a hit when tiredness kicks in.
Distraction can also get in the way of effective communication between doctors and patients; one party might find themselves distracted by something happening around them while speaking on the phone or during an appointment (like loud noises from construction workers outside). This could cause them mishear what was said by their interlocutor; they might even miss important details entirely!
Communication problems between nurses and doctors are a major contributor to medical errors, but there are solutions that can help improve the situation.
Medical errors are a leading cause of death in the US. When you think about what causes medical errors, you might think it’s a lack of technology or supplies, but more often than not it’s poor communication between nurses and doctors.
Communication is a key component of care standards and best practices, but medical facilities across the country have trouble implementing these standards because they can be difficult to implement and enforce. Nurses are often at the forefront of making sure those standards are met and enforced, yet there are many challenges that can get in their way when communicating with doctors.
Poor communication is one factor that leads to miscommunication—and that can lead to medical errors. For example: if a nurse doesn’t properly communicate what medications they’ve given patients, it could result in overdosing them on medications or underdosing them on life-saving drugs like insulin or antibiotics (which could potentially end up costing lives).
The HosTalky team recognizes these communication issues in the healthcare industry, and that’s why we’ve created the HosTalky app. It provides communication features designed specifically for healthcare workers to improve their workplace communication. With chat, reminders, and announcements all available in one app, healthcare professionals can make a change in their industry and take a step toward a better healthcare workplace.
While many of the pitfalls we’ve discussed here are inherent to the medical profession, they can be overcome. The key is to keep working on improving communication and understanding between doctors and nurses—and not just in their training but also in the way they interact with each other day-to-day.
Hope you enjoyed this article, and let us know in the comments what you think can be done to improve doctor/nurse communication.