Friday, March 19, 2010

Signs of the Times: Whiteboards Help Facilitate Better Patient Communication

Due to the workloads and busy schedules of physicians and nurses, sometimes communication with patients becomes overlooked as we try to attend to their medical needs. There are times when physicians and nurses go into a patient’s room, discuss the plan of care and leave the room without giving the patient an opportunity to have all their questions answered.

In an effort to reduce the risk of that possibility, members of the nursing staff at Martin Memorial took one step that can help in improving communication with their patients. On the inpatient oncology floor, we took out the standard whiteboards seen in patients’ rooms and replaced them with custom designed whiteboards.

Standard whiteboards in patients’ rooms include basic information such as the current date and their RN’s name for the day. The custom designed whiteboards include this standard information, as well as added sections regarding that patient’s individual plan of care, such as tests they are having done.

Patients are also invited to write on these whiteboards. One section, for example, allows patients to write down the questions they have for their physician. And a patient’s family and friends can write phone numbers or other information they may need to reach people outside the hospital.

These whiteboards have been introduced to aid in helping with overall communication between patients, nurses, physicians and other multidisciplinary team members throughout the hospital who are involved in that individual patient’s care. The new whiteboards serve as a guide to the patient’s individual care and to help health care professionals take the time to improve communication with our patients.

They also provide patients a chance to get their questions and concerns addressed as well as any other needs they may have in order to feel more involved in their care. Ultimately, we want them to be satisfied with the quality of care they receive while staying in the hospital, and this simple step has already played a big role in achieving that goal.

--Andrea Schwerdt RN, BSN, OCN
Oncology Nurse