You know you're a nurse when ...

So I was reading this article in a publication related to improving patient-centered care. It stressed that essential to delivering that type of care would be physician/patient-centered communication skills because that has an impact on patient satisfaction.

The article went on to say that while these skills could be taught at all levels of medical education and training, most physicians receive limited training in communication. Really, I am so surprised!

OK, all sarcasm aside (well, not really) the article further suggested that policy makers should leverage training grants and payment incentives to reward physicians for effective patient-centered communication. (Maybe I should have warned you not to eat before reading this!)

Seriously, can you imagine anyone suggesting grants and payment incentives for nurses and administrators for effective patient-centered communication? I mean, isn’t communication a skill we start learning when we begin our command of our language? But I digress.

I can see it now: A new communication curriculum in medical schools —  “Effective Patient Communications, Levels 100-103.”  Let’s start with the basic course. Now, for our instructor, either “Sue Ann,” a spunky Southern charm schoolteacher, or a Dr. Freud-type instructor.  Pick the voice in your head (either one worked well with my twisted imagination).

Teacher: All right, students. Everyone pick a partner. One of you will role play the doctor and one of you will role play the patient. Does everyone have a partner? Good. Let’s begin. All right, “Doctor,” look your “patient” in the eyes and say, “Good morning, how are you?”

No, you actually have to look them in the eyes, not above their heads or around the room. OK … stop … hold on, you have to wait for the patient to answer the question.

Hey, young man, don’t roll your eyes at me! I realize that bowel function is not as exciting as an exploding appendix on an unconscious patient but this is communication. This is an information exchange.

We are working on listening to concerns and showing we care about problems. And we are allowing the patient to give us enough information so we can treat the problem.

Very good, students! Now, does someone want to communicate some positive feedback about this exercise? wYes … the young man in the front row. Yes … What?  Oh dear, I do not believe that was very constructive!

OK, so I know I am being a bit cynical and I really do understand that communicating does take a certain skill set. But for goodness sake, federal grants and payment incentives? Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC — a real life long-term care nurse who is also the director of clinical affairs for the American Medical Directors Association. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. She has not starred in her own national television series — yet.