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Damage control: Getting communication right
Avoid 'he said-she said,'endlessly repeating yourself
By Patti Grant, RN, BSN, MS, CIC
Medical City Dallas Hospital
Most people in health care would agree that damage control is critical to the success of their productivity. Getting communication right the first time can decrease the odds of repeating yourself within the throes of the rumor mill, directly lowering time spent wading through the "he said-she said" quandary. The art of damage control is a beneficial quest, albeit sometimes thankless, yet a skill worth perusing for sanity purposes. For the novice infection preventionist developing a system for remembering what you said to whom, and under what circumstances, will serve you well in the long run.
You've no doubt noticed large pieces of the day are spent answering questions and that it's hard to account for those hours in the outcome-oriented focus of health care-associated infection. Something has to give. You already know another IP isn't right around the corner, so you need to: a) account for productivity to justify additional resources; and/or b) decrease time expended repeating yourself.
I've been told that we are, to a point, a product of our own expectations and how we project to others. Based on that premise, I started treating these routine question-and-answer sessions as consultations since most exchanges are not a quick "yes-or-no" conversation. As a new IP, please devote time to create a process to account for your consultations and report those interactions within a committee structure. Give credit to questions asked by those in the trenches of bedside care and public health, as they help prevent infection by accessing your expertise. These consultations are a subset of process surveillance and a fluid ongoing needs assessment of those you serve.
Establish a routine for how you handle your consultations and stick to it. Increasingly, others will know what to expect and their anxiety will decrease, thus freeing you from engaging in frequent damage control and/or repetitive exchanges of the same information. Try following this simple format and customize to your style:
The written communication cements what was said, or not said, which provides quick documentation that can be forwarded if your assessment and recommendation needs to be shared with others.
Hopefully, you won't have the opportunity too often to manage a suspected or confirmed outbreak; however, if life sends along this challenge, keeping those around you informed is a must. Live by the pre-emptive strike and get observations and facts shared in a verbal interdisciplinary meeting. Part of your stealth arsenal is to supersede panic by directing that meeting with: a) a timeline of preliminary known events and facts; b) a summary of the case definition or observations involved; c) a literature search to support your action plan; d) a schedule of anticipated routine updates; and lastly; e) a request of who else should get what information regarding the situation at hand. You'll set the tone for the calm exchange of information while promoting evidence-based practice, thus cementing your place as the content expert who does not withhold critical information.
I enjoyed hearing from you last time when you requested the "bookmarks and listserv" files — You're getting settled! If you'd like more information about this month's damage control installment, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.