Cardiology Department Communication

Communication is the Key to Cardiology Department Success

I’ve been lucky through my role as a cardiac radiographer to have worked in multiple departments, both in the UK and Australia. As a medical publisher I also visited dozens of cardiac departments around the world. I have seen the good, the bad, and on the rare occasion the very ugly. That was the reason why back in 2006 I started the cardiology department magazine Coronary Heart (now CardiologyHD) in the first place, to communicate good ideas from various institutions so that all departments could benefit.

Those departments that stood head and shoulders above the rest were the ones with the best communication. Now I’m not taking about people just getting along with each other, I’m talking about the ability for the entire department, from managers, cardiologists, and the rest of the team, working efficiently as a single unit, almost like a single organism, each component working in harmony with excellent network links to ensure everything stays healthy.

Working in a cath lab environment can be a very high-stress and demanding job, which if not handled correctly, can negatively impact patient care. The environment can be both mentally stimulating but at the same time chaotic, forcing you to think on your feet, and as such cardiac departments seem to attract certain personnel who thrive in those situations. Medical staff who do enjoy those conditions also know the importance of good team work and communication skills, because in an emergency situation there is no room for ego’s. Those who can function the best as a team will prove to be the most efficient and the most successful.

Researchers at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada have also recently proved that good communication between medical personnel who work in a stressful environment, helps them flourish. Whilst the study was focussed on emergency department staff, there are strong similarities between that and the cath lab work environment. Kirsty Nixon, a nurse practitioner with the Trauma and Acute Care Surgery Program of St. Michael’s and former nurse with the hospital’s Emergency Department stated, “Clear and concise communication between doctors, residents and nursing staff is essential to quality patient care in the ED.”

So how can cardiology departments implement better communication strategies? To be honest it’s all pretty obvious and common sense, but it is surprising just how many departments don’t do it. The researchers suggest that residents and physicians introduce themselves to any new faces on the team, speak with nurses before assessment, share learning opportunities with any interested clinical staff, explain physician orders and include nurses in reassessment and sign-over.

The research also suggests nurses introduce themselves to new faces, embrace newcomers who are new learners, be direct and clear, seek clarification when needed, and engage, partner and teach. Naturally in the cardiology environment this would apply to all team members, not just nurses.

By building good communication into the cardiology team environment, you are building a strong foundation built upon trust and good rapport. That way, when the work environment becomes highly stressful, which it will, the team can function efficiently as one unit and support each other to come out on top.


Author:

Tim Larner
CEO and Senior Cardiac Radiographer
Coronary Heart Publishing Ltd
Manchester
United Kingdom

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