Why Communications Matter

Picture this: you’re a clinician about to walk into a room to talk with a patient and family. You have difficult news to discuss. You’re concerned about the next steps in care, and also their experience of that care: How do you support them? How do you build trust? How will they react? How will you respond?

Physicians, nurses, and all kinds of clinicians face these situations every day. Feeling unprepared, alone, or worn down by many such experiences makes difficult conversations even more challenging. Emotional exhaustion can set in, diminishing clinician resilience and patient experience, and potentially affecting staff hiring and retention.

Now imagine: you are a hospital leader, risk manager, safety & quality manager, nurse leader, training director, or HR director. What if you could build systems that strengthen skills, readiness, and confidence? Communication skills can be learned. Trainer-training and coach-coaching can build in-house capacity. Together, these timely resources can help you and your institution achieve your goals for safety, quality, care, and staff resilience.

Why Clinicians Need to Disclose

Dr. Hickey discusses professional and personal reasons for clinicians to disclose errors and adverse events, and the need for training to do so.

The costs of poor communication

A June 2019 study by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety explored “The Financial and Human Cost of Medical Error… and how Massachusetts can lead the way on patient safety.” The study found that “Medical errors are associated with long-lasting loss of trust and avoidance of health care,” which can reduce patients’ future well-being. Yet, it continues, when healthcare providers spoke honestly about mistakes, patients were less likely to feel lingering emotional distress: “Open communication is linked to lower levels of adverse emotional impacts and health care avoidance.”

"Physician burnout costs the healthcare industry between $2.6 billion and $6.3 billion each year, according to a June 2019 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine... However, there's evidence burnout can be reduced without requiring a heavy level of investment...Organizations should prioritize a human-centered culture, including flexible work schedules and peer-to-peer support."

Similarly, a study of "Trends and Implications with Nursing Engagement" indicates that "15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout," finding "a statistical significance between nurse engagement and patients having better experiences." That is, "when nurses feel more supported at work, they are better able to do their job and care for patients."