Communication Is Key in Travel Nursing


By Aaron Moore, MSN, RN-BC, travel nurse expert

Aaron Moore
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There are so many places in life where we can see that if communication fails, so does everything else around it. Airlines come to mind. And for those of you in a relationship, I don’t have to tell you how poor communication can ruin a perfectly good day.

Nursing is no exception. Effective communication is vital to our practice and to patient safety. We have to be clear and concise, comforting but convincing, and humble yet confident. Yet, nurse communication can break down at any point, and leaving out just one key point in our patient education, phone calls to MDs, or family updates can really upset the fruit basket.

This holds true for staff or travel nursing, but it can be a little tougher for travelers. We are moving every few months and don’t get the chance to build up the years of mutual trust with other providers. That is why the humble-yet-confident part becomes important.

Travelers can and should be effective communicators. So here are a couple of reminders and tips that I have learned over the years.

Don’t skimp on patient hand-offs

Change-of-shift reporting is one of the most pivotal times two nurses talk to each other. Being clear and concise is so important. You don’t want to take all day telling the next shift the patient’s life story, but you also don’t want to miss an important fact or observation. When possible, I have found that having a guide in front of you, like your charting, can help.

There is a lot of good research supporting bedside reporting, as well. It builds up patient confidence, and who better to remind you about details than the patient himself?

Do what it takes to connect with physicians

Dealing with new physicians every three months can bring back memories of your first July working in a teaching hospital. Depending on the part of the country you’re in, you’ll run into many different attitudes and perceptions of how nurses and doctors should interact. I have really found that being humble yet confident is key in these situations, too.

One stable aspect of the nurse communication puzzle is the patients. No matter where you go, patient care standards remain the same--and your communications relating to education and condition can have major implications. So when you have that post-op, day-two coronary bypass patient that doesn’t want to walk, you have to be convincing as well as comforting.

There are so many other places where communication is important in travel nursing--like with your recruiter or in an interview with a potential nurse manager for a new assignment. But those are topics better left for other blogs.

For now, just dig back into your nursing school memory and pull out that old SBAR method: Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation has never let me down when I’m talking to another health care worker.

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