AORN Blog - The Periop Life

Two Steps to Become a More Effective Communicator


January 19, 2020    

We know effective communication in perioperative care improves team coordination and patient safety. We also know that errors leading to patient harm are often the result of ineffective communication with OR colleagues and with surgical patients. Despite this knowledge, the hectic pace in perioperative care often prevents us from consistently practicing effective communication.

Elizabeth Pawlowski, MHS, BSCN, BSC, RN, believes all perioperative nurses must make time for both self-reflection and getting feedback to understand how they are speaking and listening in the surgical setting.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are speaking to, whether it’s a co-worker or a patient, and ask “how much information would I need to make a good decision or do my job effectively, and how would I like to be spoken to in that situation,” she suggests.

Tips for Better Communication
As the surgical program operations manager for Halton Healthcare in Oakville, Ontario in Canada, Pawlowski has been working with a team of perioperative nurses to understand how nurses can be more effective communicators to support patient safety. Here are two approaches they’ve found that make a difference:

  1. Ask yourself if you could act effectively with the information you shared with a colleague.

For example, during a patient’s care transition from the OR to the PACU, if the surgery was extended, did you quickly mention the surgery took longer than expected or did you take a few extra moments to confirm with the PACU nurse that the patient may be at a higher risk for pressure injury.

  1. Ask your patient to provide immediate feedback on their experience with you.

This gives you a chance to receive patient feedback in a timely manner and think about how your communication with that patient was understood and potentially perceived as negative or positive experience. Direct feedback from a patient gives you valuable insights in order to make timely changes in the way you interact with other patients.

Pawlowski encourages perioperative nurses to self-reflect and work with team members, between departments, with administration and with families “in a transparent, collegial way to help ensure patients are receiving an exemplary patient experience, always.”

Looking for more tips from Pawlowski to improve your communication skills? Attend her presentation on Optimizing Communication and Improving the Surgical Patient Experience at AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo 2020 in Anaheim, CA on March 31 at 3:15pm.

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