An effective language for communication

By Heather Stringer

TeamSTEPPS is incorporated into undergraduate curriculums for improved interprofessional collaboration


n a year when medical errors have been cited as a leading cause of death in the U.S., strate- gies that can improve patient safety are in high demand. One method of reducing errors in health- care is TeamSTEPPS, an evidence-based model that is changing how caregivers communicate with one another. Using the TeamSTEPPS (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety) program, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, physician’s assistants and other healthcare providers are learning simple techniques that may help them be more adaptable, accurate, productive, effi cient and safe.

Starting at student level While many hospitals have trained employees to use the TeamSTEPPS approach, few nursing schools have incorporated the full curriculum into education, due to so many other requirements that have to be fulfi lled, according to Karen Parker, DNP, RN, FNP-C, an assistant professor at Wegmans School of Nursing, St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. Despite this challenge, nurse educators at St. John Fisher

College were convinced their students would signifi cantly benefi t from formal TeamSTEPPS training. In the fall of 2014, the school started off ering a six-hour course covering these communication techniques, and students are required to complete the class in order to graduate. “We knew students were going to be the future in healthcare and they needed to know how to communi-

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cate with other health professionals,” said Kylene Abraham, DNP, RN, an assistant professor at St. John Fisher College. “They have to be able to advocate for patients, and we wanted them to learn how important these skills are from the ground up.” Char Smith, DNS, RN-BC, ANEF, was familiar with

TeamSTEPPS when she joined the nursing faculty at St. John Fisher College in 2007. She had been working as the director of professional practice and develop- ment at a New York hospital that was beginning to implement the techniques, and she wanted students to be equipped with the same strategies before they entered the workforce.

How it works The TeamSTEPPS curriculum was developed by the Department of Defense and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Released in 2005, it includes modules on communication, leadership, situation monitoring and mutual support. One aspect of the training teaches healthcare profes- sionals about “SBAR,” an acronym for situation, background, assessment and recommendation. During change of shift or when approaching a phy- sician about a concern, nurses start by explaining the patient’s situation and background, then give an assessment and recommendation. For example, a physician could order medication to lower a pa- tient’s blood pressure, but a nurse may notice that

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