Everyone working in healthcare knows that the connection between nurses and pharmacists remains a key element of patient care. These same people know that while it’s true both groups share a common focus on delivering quality patient care, they approach their jobs from different perspectives. The problem is, a poor relationship between nursing and pharmacy negatively impacts patients’ impressions of a hospital and may even lead to poor patient experiences.
That’s why it’s vital for pharmacy leaders to actively improve the consistency of their communication and workflows with nursing staff throughout the hospital. A devotion to teamwork between pharmacy and nursing results in improved patient safety and satisfaction, reduced turnover of all staff, and higher HCAHPS scores.
To help maintain a strong working relationship between nursing and pharmacy staff, Jessy Thomas, PharmD, CompleteRx director of pharmacy for Driscoll Children’s Hospital, recommends these four strategies:
- Consider a decentralized pharmacy model. About 80 percent of U.S. hospitals follow the traditional formula of placing pharmacy on a separate floor, away from the locations where care is actually delivered. Decentralizing some portion of your pharmacy staff allows your team to interact directly with nurses and physicians, answer questions and provide education, and reduce delays in medication delivery.
- Devote time to communication. Poor communication leads to conflict between departments. A key weak point between nurses and pharmacy centers around medication preparation and delivery. To reduce this struggle, schedule monthly or quarterly interdisciplinary meetings on each floor to troubleshoot recurring issues and update all staff on new equipment, new medications and upcoming in-service training. The goal should be to encourage open discussion between nurses and pharmacists so that the sense of urgency nurses feel is understood and balanced with the pharmacists need for patient safety and quality assurance. Consider adding physicians or lab techs to the communication mix too.
- Act as team players in recruitment. Establish your hospital’s team culture early in the recruitment process by involving pharmacy leaders in the hiring of nurse leadership and vice versa. Each side brings a unique perspective to patient care and can help identify the strongest candidates.
- Ask for feedback. One of the best ways to find out what you can do better is to ask. Develop a nursing staff survey asking questions that directly relate to their interactions with pharmacy. Some questions to consider include:
- Are medications received in a timely manner?
- Does someone in pharmacy respond effectively to nursing or patient needs?
- Is pharmacy available when you have questions or need education about a medication?
- Does pharmacy exhibit a willingness to listen and help?
- Does pharmacy control narcotics safety and appropriately?
- Does pharmacy contribute to safe patient care and improving patient quality of care?
To weight answers correctly, don’t forget to ask your nursing staff to rank which questions they feel are most important.
Tension between the two disciplines of nursing and pharmacy is common, so any efforts to bolster this relationship can put your hospital ahead of the competition with a more positive, collaborative workplace.