Nursing assistants are a special part of the healthcare team because they spend the most time with the patient. Communicating with other members of the team is, therefore, a very crucial responsibility of the CNA.
Did you know that the most common cause of medical errors is faulty communication? According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), failures in communication that result in these errors can be verbal or written, and they happen in all healthcare settings and involve all types of workers. CNAs must keep in mind that to be a safe care worker, they must know how to ‘say it loud, clear, and prompt.’
What is the right way to communicate with the rest of the healthcare team?
1. MAKE SURE IT IS A TWO WAY CONVERSATION.
A famous quote about communication is “The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” In healthcare, especially in very busy settings, it is easy to assume that you have been heard and understood. But that is not always the case as AHRQ findings tell us. Two-way communication is the key to ensuring that the message sent is received and acknowledged. A good way to demonstrate this is to repeat what you think was said to you. For example, the nurse says, “We need to turn the patient to her side every two hours.” As a CNA, nodding one’s head or saying “ok” sometimes does not make it. Instead of reacting this way, the CNA may alternatively say, "We will turn the patient next at 10 am and every two hours after."
2. TIMELINESS SAVES THE DAY AND THE PATIENT.
How important is saying something promptly? As important as a patient’s life! Consider this scenario: A CNA noticed a change in the patient’s blood pressure reading but didn’t report it immediately because the patient was ‘looking all right.’ The patient's status worsened, and the healthcare team starts the blame game. This is bad news for everyone. Communicating your findings immediately to the healthcare team will ensure patient safety and prevents conflicts arising from medical errors.
3. BE CLEAR AS DAY WITH NO GRAY AREAS.
Communication with other members of the healthcare team must be clear at all times. To be clear, a CNA has to be accurate with the details. One important thing to remember is clear; a nursing assistant has to be accurate with the details. One important thing to remember is to never refer to a patient using their bed or room number. When reporting a patient condition, it is always encouraged to give descriptions and other objective details, so instead of saying, “The patient is breathing differently,” say “the patient is breathing faster and more heavily than he was four hours ago. His respiratory rate is 25.”
4. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR TONE. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU SAY, IT’S HOW YOU SAY IT.
Patient care can be tiring, and everyone in the team could be fatigued and cranky. A conflict between members is the last thing you would need in a high-pressure environment. Speak kindly and with respect, and you will be treated the same way.
5. SILENCE IS COMMUNICATION ONLY WHEN IT IS TIME TO LISTEN.
Not all communication is about sending out a message. Half of it is actually about receiving the message. To be able to understand the message, being silent to listen attentively is making sure that you have captured all the details being said to you and that the message has not been misinterpreted by you. Sometimes this happens when a nurse is saying a lot of things in a given conversation. Keep calm and make notes.
Communication can either make or break a day in a CNA’s life at work. Remember that those who have championed at being a good communicator will reap the rewards of enjoying one’s role as a nursing assistant.
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