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August 26, 2010

Team is Not a Four Letter Word: the Communications Conundrum

Arguments, misunderstandings and miscommunication, oh my. When it comes to that dreaded four letter word --team-- these are often the end result. Communications between departments about big issues exacerbate problems even more than these prickly issues typically bring up.

In April we discussed the results of our Nurse Leaders survey and the big issues you presented to us.  In this offering of Off the Shelf  we present you with suggestions on how to engage different members of your team to better communicate these issues.

As with any conversation or presentation the first thing that needs to be identified is your audience.  We're tackling three major audiences here with tips for getting them engaged with your initiatives (e-mail us your tips if you'd like to share them with our other readers).

The Financial Team



Communication Conundrum

First understand that everyone has the same end goal of quality patient care. However, they look at this end goal from multiple different angles.  When working with or presenting new ideas it helps to speak to your audience and engage them in ways that they will understand and embrace.

The Financial Team

Explain things to them in ways that they understand, identify with, and they see value in.   Explaining a project’s ROI, value propositions, or cost to benefit is going to make more sense and have a greater impact than trying to explain the final outcome. 

Present a whole case rather than just an idea and take the time to do some of the leg work:

• Are there other facilities that have implemented a similar program that led to financial improvement or some other quantifiable measure like improved customer satisfaction?

• Does it make more sense to add another FTE or continue to pay overtime rates and do you have the seasonal volumes to justify the additional FTE?

For more information check out Quint Studer’s article “Do Your Nurses Speak Finance?” in the June issue of HFMA. Also, try Richard Clarke’s January 2006 article in the HFMA magazine, “Finance and nursing the business of caring: we speak a different language. We get on each other's nerves. But go below the surface, and you'll find that finance and nursing have the same goal: caring.”


Staff buy-in to new initiatives is a function of communication and involvement.  By involving staff in the early stages of a movement and fostering a sense that their opinions are not just listened to but valued is important.  Furthermore, communicating why initiatives are underway--and not just demanding action on the how--will greatly improve the acceptance of these initiatives. 

Getting the "why" across is largely a cultural issue. If staff have always done something a certain way then getting them to change can be like turning the Titanic. The key here is using an experienced and respected leader to communicate the "why" and get the ship turned around.


Physicians need to have buy-in to an orginazation's goals and objectives. Getting this buy-in can be equally difficulty for both physician employees and those that run their own practice. A few tips for gaining physician buy-in:

• Tie in compensation, priveleges, etc. to physician contracts to ensure they have a vested interest in your goals. Whether it be increasing volume, improving turnover or expediting discharge don't be afraid to set specific targets.

• Explain how any goals or objectives impact their patients.

• Work through other medical personnel. If the CMO or a physician friend is spearheading an initative he/she is likelier to gain buy-in from his/her fellows.

Are you doing all of these things, but still having physician relation problems? We can help mediate disagreements and communication breakdowns to ensure that physicians can still run an efficient and patient-focused practice, while ensuring your facility meets its bottom line.

Soyring's Solution

Need management or communication assistance in your hospital or department? Know you have a communications issues, but not sure where to start?Contact Us.

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