Emphasize Teamwork and Communication to Increase Patient Safety

Nurses Consulting

The potential for risk is great in emergency departments. In the hospital setting, EDs rank as high-risk as intensive care units and operating rooms. In all three of those settings, staff members have to work together and communicate clearly to ensure patient safety.

EDs that place a strong emphasis on teamwork, and have in place an effective communication strategy, are able to counteract the inherent risk associated with a patient’s visit to the ED.

Previous studies in health care settings indicate that upwards of 80 percent of medical errors are related to “interpersonal interaction issues,” or more simply, miscommunication. By placing a focus on teamwork and effective communication, an ED will increase not just patient safety, but patient satisfaction, quality of care and staff morale.

Check out these three ways to improve communication and increase teamwork within the emergency department:

1. Implement an Open Door Policy

Effective leaders flatten the hierarchy, create familiarity and make it feel safe to speak up and participate.  — M. Leonard, S. Graham and D. Bonacum

Within EDs, it’s crucial that staff feel comfortable bringing concerns and ideas to their immediate supervisors and those in charge. A sense of strict hierarchy and power structure can discourage your staff from speaking up, but open door policies can counteract those effects and improve communication and enhance teamwork among staff.

2. Standardize Practices

The lack of standardised communication and procedures in medicine increases the importance that team members invest in creating a common mental model; otherwise, there is limited ability to predict and monitor what is supposed to happen. — M. Leonard, S. Graham and D. Bonacum

In many EDs, staff members possess varied levels of experience and responsibility, as well as different personalities and beliefs. To improve communication and foster an environment centered on teamwork among such a diverse group, start by standardizing procedures, practices and communication models. By emphasizing structure within those methods of care, ED staff will all be on the same page and know how and when to communicate concerns or other vital information to their colleagues and those in positions of authority.

3. Be Deliberate

Communication failures are the leading cause of inadvertent patient harm. Analysis of 2,455 sentinel events reported to the Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation revealed that the primary root cause in over 70% was communication failure. Reflecting the seriousness of these occurrences, approximately 75% of these patients died. — M. Leonard, S. Graham and D. Bonacum

As an ED or hospital leader, when you focus on communication and teamwork, in many instances, you will be changing the culture of your ED. Although the correlation that exists between patient safety and effective communication and teamwork is strong — and benefits, such as improved quality of care and increased patient satisfaction will result — a long-term strategy should be used to implement changes because this type of change takes time and dedication. It’s wise to conduct a deep analysis of every new strategy incorporated, since each step of the process has influence on the overall course of action. Be deliberate and create a schedule with the help of your staff to increase effectiveness.

The positive impact on patient safety, quality of care, patient satisfaction and staff morale that result from improved communication is something I’ve witnessed in many of the EDs Donovan and Partners has had the pleasure of working with. If your ED could benefit from improved communication and enhanced teamwork, feel free to get in touch. Contact Donovan & Partners today at cmd@constancedonovan.com or 651-260-9918. I'd be happy to do a personalized assessment of your ED and provide actionable solutions. For more information on the services we offer, visit our website.

Nursing Economics: “Measuring teamwork and patient safety attitudes of high-risk areas.”

BMJ Quality and Safety: “The human factor: the critical importance of effective teamwork and communication in providing safe care.”