Teaching the difference communication makes

Nurse Leader Insider, May 28, 2007

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At Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua, nurses are learning how to be comfortable communicating with other nurses and staff members as part of their annual education requirements. Betsy Burtis, manager of training and development for the hospital, put together a presentation that was instituted during the hospital's 2007 staff training sessions.

Burtis' slide presentation gives an overview of how miscommunications have had negative effects in other industries. She then focuses on hospital events and how The Joint Commission has deemed communication so important that it designated an entire National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG)--Goal #2--to the topic.

She relates this NPSG with how communication is a critical part of providing care to patients each day at the hospital. She also encourages those in attendance to share stories about instances in which they felt as though they could not approach another staff member with a concern.

Burtis' original idea for education included role-playing. She says that for some reason, however, her nurses were opposed to that idea. Instead, they preferred to just talk about their experiences in a group setting.

"It turned out to be more of a coaching thing," she says. "Someone would give advice about addressing a situation by saying, 'Here's how I would handle this and what I would say--why don't you try it?' so that the original nurse would feel more sure of herself."

Tips for building similar presentations
Burtis recommends focusing on the storytelling aspect of this exercise and playing that up. She even suggests making sure there are nurses in the audience who could share their own experiences.

"When you hear about those personal experiences and how things went right--or even how things went wrong--it's got a lot more power to it than just standing up and doing a slideshow," Burtis says.

Along with incorporating storytelling into the presentation, making sure that it is interactive on many levels helps nurses get involved and understand for themselves the importance of good communication, Burtis says.

She tries to let nurses answer the questions of fellow nurses with their own opinions and experiences.

Source: Briefings on Patient Safety, May 2007, HCPro. Inc.

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