A Guide for Nurse-Physician Communication: What to Say, What Not to Say

A Guide for Nurse-Physician Communication: What to Say, What Not to Say

Positive nurse–physician communication doesn’t just improve the work environment; it’s also very critical to patient health care. Poor communication between nurses and physicians is the number-one cause for hospital errors, and many of these errors have fatal results. The following communication tips are provided by Bartholomew and Lolma Olson, MA, president and founder of Sage Consulting, and author of several publications including the article,“Improving Nurse-Physician Communication.”

DO say:

“Hello.” Because health care is a people-oriented profession, and taking a brief moment to connect as people before commencing the task is important.

“How did you choose your specialty?” or something similar. Take the time to  establish a relationships with people.

“May I speak to you for a moment in private?” Disruptive doctors should never be tolerated. They can kill the morale on a whole floor. Remove them from the situation and address it immediately.

“I’d like to speak to you about a concern I have with this patient.” You must always speak the truth even if you are intimidated. If you have difficulty, just imagine the patient in the bed is your loved one.

“Thank you.” Thank you is always a nice thing for doctors and nurses to say to each other.


DON’T say:

“I’m sorry to bother you, but . . .” Bartholomew insists that nurses should never begin a conversation with a doctor with an apology. You are looking out for the best interest of a patient; there is no need to apologize.

“I’m too busy.” No one should imply that they are too busy to fulfill their role in patient care

“Hold on a minute, I need to go get the chart.” You should always be prepared with all the information you might need when calling a physician.

Anything, until the other person has finished speaking. One of the most important communication skills is listening attentively and not interrupting.

For a more in-depth explanation of these tips, click here.