Communication Between Nurses and Physicians, and Patients' Outcomes

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Abstract

Background

Various factors in hospitals can adversely affect patients' outcomes, including faulty communication between nurses and physicians. Whether specific communication elements (timeliness, accuracy, openness, understanding) can influence adverse outcomes is unknown.

Objectives

To determine the relationships between patients' outcomes and (1) nurses' perceptions of elements of communication between nurses and physicians and (2) characteristics of the practice environment.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey design was used. Information on ventilator-associated pneumonia, bloodstream infection associated with a central catheter, and pressure ulcers was collected from 25 intensive care units in southeastern Michigan. Simultaneously, 462 nurses in those units (response rate, 53.3%) were anonymously surveyed. The Conditions for Work Effectiveness Questionnaire-II and the Practice Environment Scale of the Nursing Work Index were used to measure characteristics of the practice environment. The Intensive Care Unit Nurse-Physician Questionnaire was used to measure communication between nurses and physicians. Statistical tests included correlation and multiple regression. Analyses were conducted at the unit level.

Results

Unit response rates varied from 6% to 100%. Together, variability in understanding communication and capacity utilization were predictive of 27% of the variance in ventilator-associated pneumonia. Timeliness of communication was inversely related to pressure ulcers (r = -0.38; P =.06), and workplace empowerment and scores on the Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation III were positive predictors of ventilator-associated pneumonia (R2 = 0.36; P =.005).

Conclusions

Not all elements of communication were related to the selected adverse outcomes. The connection between characteristics of the practice environment at the unit level and adverse outcomes remains elusive. (American Journal of Critical Care. 2009;18:21–30)

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