Communicating Effectively with Physicians

Communicating Effectively
As a nurse, you will be in constant communication with physicians, and it is important to make sure you’re communicating effectively. A common response Career Services gathers from Graduate Employer Surveys concerns how new nurses struggle to communicate effectively and appropriately with physicians. Interacting with physicians may seem intimidating as many veteran nurses still experience some sort of anxiety, but physicians can’t be avoided and it comes with the job. Here are several tips to prepare new nurses to be effective communicators at work.

1. Understand that physicians are busy. Having experienced the same stress, nurses understand the constant pressure physicians face from other physicians and nurses, patients, patient families, and so on. Being professional in every interaction is crucial and always keep in mind that physicians appreciate nurses who are able to “get to the point” so that they can move forth with their tasks and seeing patients.

2. Be prepared with the right information. Fumbling around for the right paperwork while on the phone with the physicians or not having a patient’s chart on hand can and will cause physicians to become impatient. For example, have the following information ready to go:

• Your patient’s diagnosis
• Your patient’s latest lab results and vitals
• What medications your patient is taking
• Your patient’s allergies
• The main point of why you are calling and what you are hoping to get

Try to anticipate other questions the physicians may ask. The goal here is to avoid having to continually repeat “let me check.” Follow the SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation) technique to relay information efficiently. Following this rubric, the nurse

• Identifies the patient and the problem (situation);
• Provides a brief explanation of the patient’s admission and pertinent medical history (background);
• Presents any concerning findings, including symptoms and vital signs (assessment);
• Asks the physician what they need (recommendation).

3. Speak up and be an advocate for your patients. Be assertive. Don’t be aggressive and don’t be afraid to talk with the doctor. However, show respect in all communication efforts. Poor communication plays a huge part in the decline of patient safety. As a new nurse struggling to decide whether a situation is urgent enough to call the physician immediately or wait until rounds, imagine the patient is your child, mother, or father. What would you do? The level of compassion should be the same for any patient.

4.Document everything. When speaking with a physician about a patient, always document the conversation and what is said. This is for the protection of not only the nurse, but the physician and patient. Keep a notepad and patient chart close at hand to jot down the date, time, actions to take, medications to update, etc.

5. Report inappropriate behavior. If a physician is acting unprofessional and/or jeopardizing patient care in any way, it is your job to report them. Make it a priority to know your chain of command and what policies and procedures to follow when reporting a physician.

Nurses do not need to be anxious or scared when conversing with a physician. Despite what may be the belief, many physicians do appreciate and respect the observations nurses have because nurses interact frequently with the patient. Be prepared with the patient’s information, and act quickly and speak directly. Communicating effectively with physicians comes with practice but these surefire tips will help get any new nurse started in the right direction.