If you watch any team of nurses at work you’ll notice a few things right away. You might observe that they never stop moving – they’re in motion all the time. But even as they are moving, they communicate with each other effectively with an almost shorthand style of nursing communication.

Here are some of the more common ways nurses communicate with each other and with their teams to give patients the best care possible while streamlining their own work processes.

Ticket to Ride

Although most patients might not realize it, every time a nurse hands off a patient to someone, they are checking to make sure the patient is safe. “’Ticket to ride’ is a communication tool used by most hospitals,” says Kimberly Mays, RN, MSN, MBA, CJCP and RN consultant with the Joint Commission Resources. “When a patient goes down for an x-ray or off the inpatient unit, there’s hand-off communication between the nurse and the transporter.” What information do they include? Details like if the patient is on oxygen, if they need a stretcher or wheelchair, if they are a fall risk, or even if they need an IV. “It’s the important things that someone who will accept temporary responsibility needs to know to keep them safe,” says Mays.

Bedside Reporting

Mays also reports that the nurse-to-nurse bedside reporting is a great tool for nurse-to-nurse communication. When a nurse is going off shift, he or she will give a report to the incoming nurse in the presence of the patient. They discuss condition, medications, and procedures so everyone is on the same page. “It shows a level of teamwork,” says Mays. “And if I get anything wrong, please let me know.” Most hospitals want to do right by their patients, says Mays, and so reporting in front of the patient at shift change time is a great way to make sure the medical team and the patient’s team all have the same information.

Hourly Rounding

Mays also notes another typical nursing communication tool that works for nurses individually, with their team, and with the patient as well. Hourly rounding, in which nurses go into patients’ rooms every hour to check on them and see what they need, sounds like it might add more time to the day, but the opposite is true. “It makes it easier,” says Mays of hourly rounding’s benefits. “You’re proactively addressing patient needs instead of reactively addressing patient needs.

Instead of making the extra steps to help recover time lost or if a patient falls behind on pain medication, for example, are eliminated. And, Mays says it was always nice to do hourly rounding before heading to lunch or dinner because then patients knew where she was and honored her time away for the most part. “It builds the trust in patients that I will be there to take care of them,” she says. “I found value in it from the very beginning.”

Walking Rounds

Different from hourly rounding is the walking rounds interdisciplinary teams take to assess patients. Everyone on the team from the physician and nurse to the respiratory therapist walks the rounds to check on patients and are able to offer a unique point of view of what the patient needs. “It’s a team approach to patient care,” says Mays.

Within each team of health care professionals, there’s a certain culture, says Mays and learning how to talk and have your voice heard within each of these is essential. Knowing what to expect at each step is a good way to start perfecting your communication approach.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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