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Nurse-Perceived Communication Challenges and Roles on Interprofessional Care Teams

Wittenberg, Elaine PhD; Goldsmith, Joy PhD; Neiman, Tammy MS, RN-BC

Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing: May/June 2015 - Volume 17 - Issue 3 - p 257–262
doi: 10.1097/NJH.0000000000000160
Feature Articles

The purpose of this study was to explore nurses’ palliative care communication, leadership, and collaborative work, as defined by the Standards of Practice for Palliative Nursing, using a 1-time cross-sectional survey nurses’ perceived difficulty with communication tasks and team collaboration skills and nurse involvement in delivery of bad news and prognosis was assessed. The survey was distributed to nurses attending 1 of 5 End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium programs. A total of 193 nurses completed the survey. Telling others about concern over errors in care was the most difficult communication task reported, whereas sharing information during interdisciplinary team meetings was the least difficult. Nursing leadership was prominent in health care team structure, yet difficulty handling conflict with team members was reported. Reminding team members about patient goals was the most common team skill practiced, and implementing team structures and team-building process was the least common. Nurses have an essential communication role in health care, commonly serving as palliative care team leaders, yet team communication and leadership are challenging communication areas in palliative nursing. Nursing education in palliative care should include team communication and ways to implement processes to support collaboration and team building.

Elaine Wittenberg, PhD, is associate professor, Division of Nursing Research and Education, City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, California.

Joy Goldsmith, PhD, is associate professor, Department of Communication, University of Memphis, Tennessee.

Tammy Neiman, MS, RN-BC, is assistant professor, St Catherine University, St Paul, Minnesota.

Address Correspondence to Elaine Wittenberg, PhD, Division of Nursing Research and Education, City of Hope National Medical Center, 1500 E Duarte Rd, Pop Sci Bldg 173, Duarte, CA 91010 (

Funds from the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence provided partial support to participate in this work.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2015 by The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.