Five Ways Nurses can Communicate Better with Doctors

The following is a guest post by Lindsay Wilcox of RNNetwork.

Lack of communication between hospital physicians and primary care providers leads to a higher risk of readmissions and poor care coordination once patients are discharged, according to a recent Fierce Healthcare article — and effective communication between physicians and nurses is just as important.

Here are some ways to improve your dialogue with the doctors you work with, especially as a travel nurse:

Be confident. Never begin a conversation with a doctor by apologizing for calling her. It’ll only make her more annoyed to take the call and make you more flustered as you try to explain the situation. Instead, identify yourself, say why you are calling and get right to the point. You’ll gain the doctor’s trust and avoid wasting time or giving the impression that you’re unsure of yourself.


Practice before you call or start a conversation. Many nurses get nervous when calling doctors or approaching them in the hospital about a patient’s care, especially if they have to wake them up or interrupt them. Keep yourself calm by practicing your conversation before approaching or calling the doctor, either with another nurse or out loud to yourself in a quiet spot.

Keep your cool. When a doctor is angry with you or you’ve had a stressful shift, you can end up saying things you regret or completely losing your temper — and this will only add fuel to the fire. No matter what the situation is, be respectful and courteous. The doctor will generally calm down, and you’ll both be able to calmly discuss the best option for the patient.

Write everything down. It’s important to have the patient’s vital signs, bloodwork, medications and current condition at hand when you call the doctor, who will generally ask for this information immediately. You should also write down other questions you’d like to ask the doctor so you don’t forget once you’re on the phone or deep in conversation. Using a whiteboard if you’re brainstorming in person can help as well, especially if the care plan is detailed.

Don’t assume the doctor is already familiar with the case. Always tell the doctor the patient’s name and condition so he or she knows exactly who you’re talking about and isn’t confused with another patient. Doctors see dozens of patients each day and can forget specific people they’ve treated even hours before, so ensure that the doctor is familiar with who you’re talking about before asking him or her for help. When this type of situation arises, being able to reference a patient’s status via a hospital bedside board can serve as a great reminder for both doctors and nurses.

Though nurse and physician communication will never be flawless, staying in control of your emotions, practicing conversations before you start talking and projecting confidence can help you become a better healthcare professional and ensure that your patients are well cared for at all times.

Lindsay Wilcox is a public relations specialist at RNnetwork, a travel nurse staffing company headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla. She enjoys featuring travel nurses, providing travel tips and highlighting nurse job destinations on the RNnetwork blog.

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