Can You Hear Me Now? Communication Among Physicians and Nursing Students

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Faculty who teach “soft skills” such as communication, conflict resolution, and collaboration can struggle with how to make these topics innovative and meaningful to students who may be more focused in gaining clinical skills. One strategy for faculty to use is an interprofessional teaching session with practicing physicians and medical residents. Six to 8 undergraduate nursing students are placed in small groups with 1 to 2 physicians. Introductions occur using a “Myth Busters” format, where each individual must share a preconceived notion or myth about their profession and how this myth influences their practice. After introductions, the team reviews 4 case scenarios focused on advocacy, conflict resolution, medical error due to miscommunication, and informed consent. Each member reflects on their individual solution to the scenario and then shares with the group. The group must reach consensus about the best way to address the problem. The physicians and students then debrief as a whole in a large classroom setting. Evaluation of the experience is based on a 1-minute paper, and students have reported themes related to a deeper appreciation for the complexity of roles, an awareness that communication is vital but not always clear, the impact of communication and conflict on patient safety, and a desire to provide relevant information to physician colleagues.
By Meg Zomorodi, PhD, RN, CNL, Clinical Associate Professor, Macy Faculty Scholar, School of Nursing, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (
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