Discovering your voice and listening to others

Education Standing Committee: Colleague communications

Student pharmacists are thrown into a plethora of environments that are turbulent, crowded, and foreign at times. Being an effective communicator is a secret weapon that student pharmacists can use to come out on top during tense situations. This article is designed to take the spaghetti of interprofessional communication and make ravioli—nice bite size squares to further your ability to excel in the clinical workplace. 

Collaboration skills

Ineffective communication can be your downfall before you even start, so let’s first look at the logic of things. According to The Thinker’s Guide to Analytical Thinking by Linda Elder, PhD, and Richard Paul, PhD, think through the following skills when working in collaboration with other health care providers.

1. Purpose: What is the objective of this assignment, task, and policy?

2. Question: What is the answer I need and what composes it?

3. Information: Is it relevant and does it help answer the question?

4. Inferences: What conclusions am I coming to and does it make sense?

5. Assumptions: Am I assuming something I shouldn’t and is it leading me to a conclusion?

6. Concepts: Is it established usage or need further explanation?

7. Point of view: Is there another way to look at it?

Here’s a scenario. The clock reads 7:00 a.m. on the cardiology floor of the medical center. Although the nurse’s 12-hour shift officially begins at that time, the nurse has already been at the patient’s bedside for 30 minutes discussing the bedside report from the previous shift. As she
finishes up the report, she hears the bedside alarm ring three doors down. This patient is experiencing severe chest pain and she needs to put in a medication order STAT. Meanwhile, she gets a page from the physician that it is time to remove the catheter from a patient’s femoral artery (a post-procedure cardiac catheter that requires holding down firmly on the patient’s femoral artery for 45 minutes). As she rushes to confirm the catheter removal, her pager goes off and there is a code blue that requires immediate resuscitation for yet another one of her patients. She still hasn’t been able to order the STAT medication or any other morning medications for her patients yet.

So, how do pharmacists continually put patients at the forefront of their daily tasks? We spoke to several  professionals for their thoughts on pharmacists’ importance to the health care team.

PA’s perspective

Physician’s Assistant Lauren Kelly Adams, from All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL, explained: “During rounds on a patient suffering from increased muscle posturing and spasm, the pharmacist recommended tweaking the dosing of gabapentin, adjusting some other medications, and adding baclofen,” said Adams. “As the primary team—we were focused on the patient’s underlying neurologic devastation and long-term sequelae—grasping the whole picture and ensuring our patient is properly medicated based on his/her current state needs to remain of utmost importance, and we thank our pharmacist for their support as our team endeavors to do just that.”

Communication is essential when managing patients, Adams said, adding, “My strategy for successful communication involves being aware and cognizant of all team opinions to allow for synergistic gains.”

Nurse’s perspective

When speaking to various nurses from different institutions, they all agreed that pharmacists play a vital role in patient care. Jamie Turner, a registered nurse at the University of Tennessee Medical Center said, “Every experience with a pharmacist has been so very positive overall. They are always a great resource for compatibility questions and dosing questions, as well as adverse effects if the nurses and doctors are unsure.”

She elaborated further about the nurse’s important interaction with other team members. “The role of the nurse is to be the advocate for the patient; we tend to be the center of communication in the team because we are the ones spending time with the patient,” Turner said.

Elevate your ability

It is time for a lunch break and with ravioli on the menu, we can’t help but think about our fellow health care professionals. The cheese, sauce, and square-shaped pasta come together wonderfully to make the perfect meal. Just as the squares hold the cheese and sauce in place, communication holds health care professionals together in a similar way.

Communication is something even experts have to practice and continually work to achieve. Student pharmacists can all elevate their ability to communicate by talking to other health care professionals and using a logical thought process.