As a nurse on the pediatric floor, my finest days were those when the care team worked together, like a well-oiled machine – when we all came together to manage and support patient care. Feeling appreciated, supported and heard by my team for the greatest good of the patient not only improved patient care, but also provided me with great job satisfaction.

In honor of National Nurses Week (starting May 6), National Nurses Day (May 12) and every other day, hospitals and other health organizations can support nurses and other patient care team members by providing a safe and fully staffed work environment, the appropriate tools needed to perform the job, and easy access to the right team members when you need them. Oh, and of course…good coffee.

Providing good coffee should be easy (emphasis on should), but providing easy access to team members on a dynamic hospital campus can be quite challenging. Each service or department has different rules around who and when to call at various times of the day. Trying to memorize all of those preferences can be very frustrating.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that call schedules are distributed throughout the hospital all different ways. Some are electronic while others are posted (printed copies) throughout the unit. Regardless of how it is shared, the schedule itself can be a puzzle to figure out. Even if you figure out how to actually reach them, providers are busy. They are doing what they get paid to do – seeing patients, performing surgeries and procedures, assisting in a trauma, or catching up on charting.

The key to providing easy access is understanding how each team member functions in his or her specific role, what communication methods and devices work for them, how other responsibilities impact their ability to respond, and potentially where they are located in the hospital.  This is where many communication tools lose their way, by taking a one-size-fits-all approach and trying to support nurse communication in one broad sweep.  Nursing jobs and their respective duties are as varied as the different services communication rules and preferences.

For example, Nurse Care Coordinators function as air traffic controllers for their respective services. These nurses tend to stay in this role for a long period of time. They become experts at triaging their services. They are typically stationary at a computer while their providers are mobile. They collect all incoming communication from pages to calls, and distribute them among the providers. They spend a lot of time communicating with their team via the phone.

Floor Nurses range from new grads to seasoned nurses. They have the potential to work with 3-5 different service providers for just one patient. Most of the communication from the floor is through a one-way paging system. Floor nurses are on their feet and on the move for the majority of their shift. It is rare to find a floor nurse sitting down.

Home Health Nurses operate outside the walls of the hospital. They can be found in their offices, on the road, or in their patients’ homes. Good communication is vital for the care of their patients. Traditionally, communication with the care team has occurred through the one-way paging system or through the EHR, but there are limitations with that approach. Strong two-way communication makes it much easier for them to do their job, and ensures better transition of care when necessary.

I am excited that the company I work for understands the unique challenges each nursing position faces, and gives voice to all of them by making sure they are always represented at the planning and design table.  During the 2019 National Nurses Week, lets give thanks to all of the nurses for the important role each of them plays throughout the care continuum.