Interdisciplinary communication in the intensive care unit

Br J Anaesth. 2007 Mar;98(3):347-52. doi: 10.1093/bja/ael372. Epub 2007 Feb 1.


Background: Patient safety research has shown poor communication among intensive care unit (ICU) nurses and doctors to be a common causal factor underlying critical incidents in intensive care. This study examines whether ICU doctors and nurses have a shared perception of interdisciplinary communication in the UK ICU.

Methods: Cross-sectional survey of ICU nurses and doctors in four UK hospitals using a previously established measure of ICU interdisciplinary collaboration.

Results: A sample of 48 doctors and 136 nurses (47% response rate) from four ICUs responded to the survey. Nurses and doctors were found to have differing perceptions of interdisciplinary communication, with nurses reporting lower levels of communication openness between nurses and doctors. Compared with senior doctors, trainee doctors also reported lower levels of communication openness between doctors. A regression path analysis revealed that communication openness among ICU team members predicted the degree to which individuals reported understanding their patient care goals ((adj)R(2) = 0.17). It also showed that perceptions of the quality of unit leadership predicted open communication.

Conclusions: Members of ICU teams have divergent perceptions of their communication with one another. Communication openness among team members is also associated with the degree to which they understand patient care goals. It is necessary to create an atmosphere where team members feel they can communicate openly without fear of reprisal or embarrassment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Leadership
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Scotland