How can you, as a registered nurse, impact older adults to encourage routine vaccination?

The CDC and Healthy People 2020 continue to educate on the importance, the improved ease of access and insurance coverage for screenings and vaccinations. It is the responsibility of nurses to engage our aging adults in self-advocating for services that benefit the individual and community health. How can you, as a registered nurse, impact older adults to encourage routine vaccination? What impact does this have on the community as a whole? (located CA USA)

Webster’s Dictionary defines communication as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.” It is important to consider that communication is not just verbal in form. One study states that 93 percent of communication is more affected by body language, attitude, and tone, leaving only 7 percent of the meaning and intent based on the actual words said.

Whereas the spoken words contain the crucial content, their meaning can be influenced by the style of delivery, which includes the way speakers stand, speak, and look at a person. However, critical information is often transmitted via handwritten notes, e-mails, or text messages, which can lead to serious consequences if there is miscommunication.

Collaboration in health care is defined as health care professionals assuming complementary roles and cooperatively working together, sharing responsibility for problem-solving and making decisions to formulate and carry out plans for patient care.

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Collaboration between physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals increases team members’ awareness of each others’ type of knowledge and skills, leading to continued improvement in decisionmaking.

Effective teams are characterized by trust, respect, and collaboration. Deming is one of the greatest proponents of teamwork. Teamwork, he believes, is endemic to a system in which all employees are working for the good of a goal, who have a common aim, and who work together to achieve that aim. When considering a teamwork model in health care, an interdisciplinary approach should be applied.

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Unlike a multidisciplinary approach, in which each team member is responsible only for the activities related to his or her own discipline and formulates separate goals for the patient, an interdisciplinary approach coalesces a joint effort on behalf of the patient with a common goal from all disciplines involved in the care plan.

The pooling of specialized services leads to integrated interventions. The plan of care takes into account the multiple assessments and treatment regimens, and it packages these services to create an individualized care program that best addresses the needs of the patient. The patient finds that communication is easier with a cohesive team, rather than with numerous professionals who do not know what others are doing to manage the patient.

It is important to point out that fostering a team collaboration environment may have hurdles to overcome: additional time; perceived loss of autonomy; lack of confidence or trust in the decisions of others; clashing perceptions; territorialism; and lack of awareness of one provider of the education, knowledge, and skills held by colleagues from other disciplines and professions.

However, most of these hurdles can be overcome with an open attitude and feelings of mutual respect and trust. A study determined that improved teamwork and communication are described by health care workers as among the most important factors in improving clinical effectiveness and job satisfaction.

Extensive review of the literature shows that communication, collaboration, and teamwork do not always occur in clinical settings. For example, a study by Sutcliff, Lewton, and Rosenthal reveals that social, relational, and organizational structures contribute to communication failures that have been implicated as a large contributor to adverse clinical events and outcomes. Another study shows that the priorities of patient care differed between members of the health care team, and that verbal communication between team members was inconsistent.

Other evidence shows that more than one-fifth of patients hospitalized in the United States reported hospital system problems, including staff providing conflicting information and staff not knowing which physician is in charge of their care.

Over the past several years, we have been conducting original research on the impact of physician and nurse disruptive behaviors (defined as any inappropriate behavior, confrontation, or conflict, ranging from verbal abuse to physical or sexual harassment) and its effect on staff relationships, staff satisfaction and turnover, and patient outcomes of care, including adverse events, medical errors, compromises in patient safety, poor quality care, and links to preventable patient mortality. Many of these unwanted effects can be traced back to poor communication and collaboration, and ineffective teamwork.

Unfortunately, many health care workers are used to poor communication and teamwork, as a result of a culture of low expectations that has developed in many health care settings. This culture, in which health care workers have come to expect faulty and incomplete exchange of information, leads to errors because even conscientious professionals tend to ignore potential red flags and clinical discrepancies. They view these warning signals as indicators of routine repetitions of poor communication rather than unusual, worrisome indicators.

Although poor communication can lead to tragic consequences, a review of the literature also shows that effective communication can lead to the following positive outcomes: improved information flow, more effective interventions, improved safety, enhanced employee morale, increased patient and family satisfaction, and decreased lengths of stay.

Effective communication among staff encourages effective teamwork and promotes continuity and clarity within the patient care team. At its best, good communication encourages collaboration, fosters teamwork, and helps prevent errors. Barriers to Effective Communication Health professionals tend to work autonomously, even though they may speak of being part of a team.

Efforts to improve health care safety and quality are often jeopardized by the communication and collaboration barriers that exist between clinical staff. Although every organization is unique, the barriers to effective communication that organizations face have some common themes. Table 2 indicates some common barriers to interprofessional collaboration that we have learned from our research and focus groups with hospitals across the country.

However, most often the barriers manifest between nurses and physicians. Even though doctors and nurses interact numerous times a day, they often have different perceptions of their roles and responsibilities as to patient needs, and thus different goals for patient care. One barrier compounding this issue is that because the United States is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world, many clinicians come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. In all interactions, cultural differences can exacerbate communication problems.

For example, in some cultures, individuals refrain from being assertive or challenging opinions openly. As a result, it is very difficult for nurses from such cultures to speak up if they see something wrong. In cultures such as these, nurses may communicate their concerns in very indirect ways. Cultural barriers can also hinder nonverbal communication. For example, some cultures ascribe specific meaning to eye contact, certain facial expressions, touch, tone of voice, and nods of the head. Issues around gender differences in communication styles, values, and expectations are common in all workplace situations. In the health care industry, where most physicians are male and most nurses are female, communication problems are further accentuated by gender differences.

A review of the organizational communication literature shows that a common barrier to effective communication and collaboration is hierarchies.

Sutcliff and colleagues’ research concurs that communication failures in the medical setting arise from vertical hierarchical differences, concerns with upward influence, role conflict, ambiguity and struggles with interpersonal power and conflict. Communication is likely to be distorted or withheld in situations where there are hierarchical differences between two communicators, particularly when one person is concerned about appearing incompetent, does not want to offend the other, or perceives that the other is not open to communication. In health care environments characterized by a hierarchical culture, physicians are at the top of that hierarchy.

Consequently, they may feel that the environment is collaborative and that communication is open while nurses and other direct care staff perceive communication problems. Hierarchy differences can come into play and diminish the collaborative interactions necessary to ensure that the proper treatments are delivered appropriately. When hierarchy differences exist, people on the lower end of the hierarchy tend to be uncomfortable speaking up about problems or concerns. Intimidating behavior by individuals at the top of a hierarchy can hinder communication and give the impression that the individual is unapproachable.

Staff who witness poor performance in their peers may be hesitant to speak up because of fear of retaliation or the impression that speaking up will not do any good. Relationships between the individuals providing patient care can have a powerful influence on how and even if important information is communicated. Research has shown that delays in patient care and recurring problems from unresolved disputes are often the by-product of physician-nurse disagreement.39 Our research has identified a common trend in which nurses are either reluctant or refuse to call physicians, even in the face of a deteriorating status in patient care. Reasons for this include intimidation, fear of getting into a confrontational or antagonistic discussion, lack of confidentiality, fear of retaliation, and the fact that nothing ever seems to change. Many of these issues have to deal more with personality and communication style.

The major concern about disruptive behaviors is how frequently they occur and the potential negative impact they can have on patient care. Our research has shown that 17 percent of respondents to our survey research in 2004–2006 knew of a specific adverse event that occurred as a result of disruptive behavior. A quote from one of the respondents illustrates this point: “Poor communication postop because of disruptive reputation of physician resulted in delayed treatment, aspiration, and eventual demise.”

Leaders in both medicine and nursing have issued ongoing initiatives for the development of a cooperative rather than a competitive agenda to benefit patient care.

A powerful incentive for greater teamwork among professionals is created by directing attention to the areas where changes are likely to result in measurable improvements for the patients they serve together, rather than concentrating on what, on the surface, seem to be irreconcilable professional differences. The fact that most health professionals have at least one characteristic in common, a personal desire to learn, and that they have at least one shared value, to meet the needs of their patients or clients, is a good place to start.

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