In today’s evolving landscape of patient care, it’s more important than ever for nurses and clinicians to practice strong communication skills.
Not only does this affect patient satisfaction scores (HCAHPS), but communication is vital when implementing transitions of care between intercollaborative care teams. Studies have shown that many clinical errors are the result of poor communication during patient handoffs.
Communication skills must be an important element of nursing education to empower nurses to influence and collaborate in crucial patient and self-advocacy conversations. Nursing students need to be prepared to make decisions, solve problems, and be patient advocates. They should be encouraged to address problems, such as incompetence and disrespect. They must also be committed to reducing errors, improving quality of care, and promoting a work environment where all members are valued and engaged.
A recent article in Nurse Educator took a look at the effectiveness of a communication competency educational program for nursing students. The study determined that there was a statistical significance from pre- to post-intervention, indicating the importance of communication competency education for nursing students’ ability to advocate for themselves and their patients.
The purpose of the study was to implement and evaluate a communication competency educational program, derived from a portion of the TeamSTEPPS curriculum, which stands for Team Strategies & Tools to Enhance Performance & Patient Safety. Researchers examined the effectiveness of the communication competency program to improve self-advocating behaviors in students in an associate degree in nursing program.
Unfortunately, few nursing students said they felt empowered and prepared to confront physicians, nurses, and educators when controversial situations arose. In terms of curriculum, little information was available to nursing students on how to best advocate for patients when the situation warranted it.
It's crucial for nurse educators to provide students with communication skills to effectively advocate for patients. In other words, if they believe something is wrong, students need a tool to speak out. With a dedicated framework, students can build confidence in their ability to advocate for themselves and their patients.
Without adequate communication skills to address concerns, the nurse's role is diminished. This study demonstrated that communication competency training significantly improved nursing students’ self-advocating beliefs and behaviors. The communication competency educational program, with an emphasis on the TeamSTEPPS assertive statement, 2-challenge rule, and signal words for verbal communication, provided nursing students with the tools to enhance their self-advocacy skills.
It is the responsibility of nurse educators to provide students with the best available tools to enhance advocacy skills. Implementing a communication competency educational program and specifically focusing on communication, advocacy, and assertion skills provides a foundation for learning. Nursing programs that provide students with formal training in communication can guide the process of communicating concerns to affect patient safety.
In addition, using experiential training techniques such as video presentations, role-play scenarios, and group discussions builds enhanced engagement and retention. The study authors state that one of the best ways to facilitate communication skills is to expand the practice into experiential scenarios in the simulation laboratory. Role-play scenarios of controversial situations with other health care providers require students to apply their communication skills to benefit patient advocacy -- an invaluable skill that they will need to use throughout their nursing careers.
How competent are you and your fellow staffers when it comes to communicating important issues? In what ways could you improve communication?