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To page or not to page? A qualitative study of communication practices of general surgery residents and nurses

      Abstract

      Background

      Communication errors contribute to preventable adverse hospital events; however, communication between general surgery residents and nurses remains insufficiently studied. The purpose of our study was to use qualitative methods to characterize communication practices of surgical residents and nurses on inpatient general and intermediate care units to inform best practices and future interprofessional interventions.

      Methods

      Our study cohort consisted of 14 general surgery residents and 13 inpatient nurses from a tertiary academic medical center. Focus groups were conducted via a secure video platform, recorded, and transcribed. Two authors performed open coding of transcripts for qualitative analysis. Codes were reviewed iteratively with themes generated via abductive analysis, contextualizing results within 3 domains of an established communication space framework: organizational, cognitive, and social complexity.

      Results

      Communication practices of general surgery residents and inpatient nurses are affected by workflow differences, disruptive communication patterns, and communication technology. Barriers to effective communication, as well as strategies used to mitigate challenges, were characterized, with select communication practices found to negatively affect the well-being of patients, nurses, and residents.

      Conclusion

      Communication practices of general surgery residents and inpatient nurses are influenced by entrenched and interrelated organizational, technological, and interpersonal factors. Given that current communication practices negatively affect patient and provider well-being, collaboration between surgeons, nurses, systems engineers, health information technology experts, and other stakeholders is critical to (1) establish communication best practices, and (2) design interventions to assess and improve multiple areas (rather than isolated domains) of surgical interprofessional communication.

      Graphical abstract

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