Effective communication for the delivery of quality, safe patient care

Effective communication for the delivery of quality, safe patient care

by: Becky Pinney, Sr. VP Nursing

Effective communication and teamwork is essential for the delivery of quality, safe patient care. Communication failures are a common cause of inadvertent patient harm. It is critical that we have a means in each of our facilities to allow our employees to speak up when they have a concern. It is also essential that all who are delivering care understand their responsibility to share information with our team members to ensure safe and effective care occurs.

This is especially true during the intake process. Intake is a high volume, fast paced process in which we must make rapid assessments of our patients and determine the needs that require immediate and longer term care planning. Failure to plan for those needs negatively impacts continuity of care for the patient and causes inadvertent harm, which we always strive to prevent. To avoid this potential failure, a clinical hand-off should occur between team members.

A clinical hand-off is the transfer of professional responsibility for some or all aspects of care of a patient to another person. The hand-off is an information exchange that allows the new clinician to have full knowledge of the needs of the patient so they can properly continue care for that patient. How does this apply to the nurse working intake in the correctional setting?

While conducting intake screenings, nurses may often identify patients who have a need that requires immediate care, such as a recheck of vital signs; or a diabetic patient who states they have not had insulin for the past two days. It is easy for those patients to get “lost in the shuffle” of intake and housed without receiving the care or monitoring required. The intake screener who identifies those needs is responsible to either provide the care needed or arrange for the care needed through an effective clinical hand-off to a team member. Corizon Health providers are ethically and legally responsible for the ownership of the patient and/or the transfer of ownership of the patient to another team member.

Successful care planning is dependent on having systems in place that allow for the exchange of information between team members and their understanding of what should occur during a clinical hand-off. Site leadership should arrange for clearly defined times and processes to allow for this exchange of information between team members and should also set the expectation of positive team communication that focuses on the patient.

During a clinical hand-off, team members should use the established processes to exchange accurate transmission of the key facts related to the patient being discussed. The exchange should include any background clinical information (“the patient is a known diabetic”), the current situation (“the patient has stated that he has not had insulin for the past 24 hours and his current blood sugar is 455”), and the current “to-dos” (clear tasks that need to be completed in a certain time frame, such as “we need to contact the provider for orders and monitor the patient based on treatment ordered”). It is critical that each party in the exchange participate in a manner that supports a focus on continuity of care for the patient. The outgoing party should take the perspective of the oncoming one, sharing all of the information they would want themselves to ensure the best possible care.

Remember that continuity of care is dependent on our ability to identify and arrange for the health needs of each patient who enters into our care through the intake process. Effective communication is essential to patient safety and each team member is responsible for their professional role in ensuring that care required is care delivered.