Provider Communication

Is calling the provider as an ICU nurse your specialty? Truly, think about it. 

Okay, maybe it is. 

But for new grads especially, it can be nerve-racking. Especially in ICU.

We get it. So that’s why we compiled a list of the Top 10 Tips to Effectively Communicate with Confidence. 

But first…

Understanding Hospital Culture. 

Every hospital is different. Some hospitals are very team-oriented and some have a hierarchy mentality. In an academic atmosphere, you will more than likely have the opportunity to have younger generations of providers. These centers tend to allow for the consistent bringing on of new, young faces.  

Ok – now to the tips. 

Review the facts about your patient.

Have your report sheet ready and bullet point important information. Do a quick review for yourself for what may be important (labs, vital signs, SBAR – don’t hate me!)

Practice what you’re going to say.

In a non-emergent situation, practice with a safe person like your preceptor. This will give you practice and also be able to receive feedback and context. Another great tip with this is to talk in person when you can. Depending on your setup, you may have providers nearby or you may be calling and waking them up in the middle of the night. Good to know both!

Have your notes prepared beforehand.

Having those bullet points ready is key. Make sure to have the vitals and labs in that list as you call the provider. Most likely, they will want to know that along with potential other stats, depending on the patient (meds, urine output, etc.)

Inform your Charge Nurse.

Any time you have a patient that is slightly unstable, let your charge nurse know. It is always good to loop them into the conversation early and give them the rundown. Use the SBAR again. This will help them to know the resources needed.

Be a learner and ask for help.

Be a forever learner. Take advantage of the resources you have. Pharmacists – talk to them. Surgeons – get geeky. Get the geeky pharmacology. Most people love to teach. It shows them they are respected and valued. They have the expertise. 

Keep a running list of questions.

There will be things throughout each shift that you want to circle back to, especially when it comes to understanding. It may be the difference in a Heparin dosage. Keep a note on your phone, a doc in your Google Drive, or even a notebook. Because this is coming from an application, you will remember this. 

Prepare your list of questions ahead of time.

Give as much information upfront. Your providers will have questions back for you when you call if you do not give the information upfront. Rate of A-Fib, are they conscious, stable, or mentating? 

Utilize leading questions.

Asking palatable questions to your providers can literally save your sanity. Knowing the questions to ask to get stuff done is key! Unfortunately, we are still having these problems due to medicine and health in general. Some of it is just generational trauma and is passed down within the hospital system. Make people feel safe yet effective. Something like “Hey, patient Jones in 27, did you want to go ahead and start diuresis for them?” This shows that they may need it started but allow everyone to make their own decisions. 

Use introductions with names and roles.

If you are in a unit permanently, you will get to know your providers. In situations where you may be per diem, traveling, or just floating, you may not. Knowing the providers and them knowing you will go a long way. They will know their patient is being taken care of by you by starting off with clear communication. 

Also, being proactive with introductions and formal roles will help ensure everyone knows their responsibilities. When those lines of communication are open, it shows you care. Everyone else is on a journey like you (med students, residents, scrub tech, surgeons).

Step Confidently into Your Role.

As a new grad, it may be more challenging as you start. You are a professional and you belong there. This will help everyone know that they can trust you. Showing that you soak up the feedback and are ready to learn!

One last nugget of goodness…

Calling vs Text

With EMRs and technology, there are other ways to potentially get ahold of providers. Knowing when to use Epic’s secure text or text page vs calling vs grabbing a human. Knowing your levels of urgency will help with this.

Talking to providers is not as bad as it seems. With time and practice, it will be second nature, we promise! 

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