Ongoing staffing shortages in nursing homes are making it difficult for nurses to communicate and efficiently share changes in conditions for residents, a new study has found. 

The findings were published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association by a European-based research team. Researchers interviewed about two dozen physician and nurse practitioners in nursing homes about their interprofessional communication — good and bad.  

Researchers found that physicians often struggled to know the exact size and structure of their care team — citing staffing shortages as a main cause — which limited the time they had to talk with staff. The lack of time also was believed to cause nursing staff to forget or get diverted from following up physician’s orders, which caused frustration and less collaboration. 

“Temporary workers to fill in vacancies would complicate communication because they would not know the residents, the care team and the physician. Temporary workers would not usually communicate with the physician,” investigators wrote. “Also, they did not write reports when they were not familiar with the electronic record or were not authorized to access it.”

Investigators also found that physicians had difficulty talking with staff about residents’ care needs because staff couldn’t recognize or explain what the exact problem was. 

“Usually the nurses with more education communicated with the physicians directly. However, they may have heard about changing resident needs second-hand,” report authors said. 

Researchers said the findings stressed the importance of consistent and ongoing communication and collaboration between the two groups. They concluded that “investing in relationships and educating nursing staff pay off when staff can be retained and can also help reduce staff turnover.”