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Tough Communication Skills are Required for Safe Staffing - With or Without Ratios

Staffing ratios for nurses are essential to help to address pervasive and chronic problems nurse doctors rushing of inadequate nurse staffing in many hospitals and hopefully some day, nursing homes and other primary care settings.  Ratios provide a structure that helps to ensure there are enough skilled caregivers for the number and complexity of patients on any given shift. This is critical for providing safe care.

But it is not the only intervention we need in order to ensure adequate staffing and safe care.  We must also advocate for nurses at all levels to have conversations where individual differences, limitations, and resources are respected.  As a staff RN, what I can do Monday morning may be different from what I can do on Thursday afternoon and as a human being there are infinite variable that will affect my limitations.  How busy my day has been, how tired I am, what physical shape I’m in, what worries I might have going on at home, the relationships I have with my colleagues, whether I had time for a meal break, etc.  As such, I need to be able and willing to practice some tough communication skills in the minute-to-minute high stakes, high stress world of healthcare.

The kinds of skills that empower me to:
  • Ask for help.
  • Delegate tasks.
  • Set limits.
  • Honor limits of others even when different than my own.
  • Address conflict.
  • Be open to other ideas.
  • Share my ideas.
All of these require effective skills in giving and receiving constructive feedback. (Download this free poster!)

And we need to be able to practice these communication skills in cultures where our limits will be heard and respected!  By each other and by leaders!  A culture of safety can not be sustained without excellence in communication and respect in the air.

If you are looking for training, please consider a medical improv workshop, interactive workshops on communication, or other online courses through Pedagogy. As always, my two books on building communication skills are available!

Successful Nurse Communication:  Safe Care, Healthy Workplaces, & Rewarding Careers $51.95 (US)

Confident Voices:  The Nurses’ Guide to Improving Communication & Creating Positive Workplaces 28.95 (US)  Bulk rates available from author!

Guest post by Beth Boynton RN, MS

Beth Boynton, RN, MS, is a nurse consultant, author, and teacher specializing in communication and collaboration among healthcare professionals and within organizations. She offers interactive workshops, leadership coaching, a ‘whole systems’ approach for culture change efforts, and a new method for building ‘people skills’ called ‘Medical Improv’. She has recently completed her second book, a core text called: Successful Nurse Communication: Safe Care, Healthy Workplaces, and Rewarding Careers which is scheduled to be published by F.A. Davis Publishing Co. Spring 2015. She writes about related issues at, “Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog. Her video, “Interruption Awareness: A Nursing Minute for Patient Safety,” and blog have drawn audiences from all over the world. She is trained in the Professor Watson Curriculum for Medical Improv through Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She has one grown son who is works in India, loves improv, Zumba dancing, walking, and swimming, and lives in Portsmouth, NH.

You may view Beth's online continuing education course - 4 Essential Strategies that Promote Patient Safety. This is a 2 contact hour course that features Beth in 10 short video's designed to engage and teach the student.  This instructional continuing education course is designed for nurses who are in direct care or middle management positions in hospitals; long-term care facilities, and other frontline in- and out-patient practice settings.  Despite 15 years of national focus on improving patient safety outcomes, we continue to have staggering statistics involving preventable deaths, illnesses, and injuries that are due to medical errors. And because communication breakdowns and associated problems with inter-professional relationships have long been major contributors to these alarming problems it is imperative for nurses to develop skills and promote positive interpersonal dynamics. Respectful interactions and effective communication seem simple on paper, yet successful efforts to practice them in the field remain elusive.  In this course, students will examine patient safety statistics and root cause analysis data in order to understand the scope of the problem and how persistent issues with communication and human dynamics are interfering with providing safe care.  This foundation will provide the incentive to commit to exploring and practicing communication strategies that will help to solve them. A basic knowledge of assertiveness, listening, and emotional intelligence is required as students take a ‘deeper dive’ with Beth Boynton, RN, MS to develop their abilities to:  set limits, delegate tasks, and give and receive constructive feedback.

Posted: 7/12/2016 5:27:26 PM
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