Effective physician-nurse communication: a patient safety essential for labor and delivery

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Aug;205(2):91-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2011.04.021. Epub 2011 Apr 16.


Effective communication is a hallmark of safe patient care. Challenges to effective interprofessional communication in maternity care include differing professional perspectives on clinical management, steep hierarchies, and lack of administrative support for change. We review principles of high reliability as they apply to communication in clinical care and discuss principles of effective communication and conflict management in maternity care. Effective clinical communication is respectful, clear, direct, and explicit. We use a clinical scenario to illustrate an historic style of nurse-physician communication and demonstrate how communication can be improved to promote trust and patient safety. Consistent execution of successful communication requires excellent listening skills, superb administrative support, and collective commitment to move past traditional hierarchy and professional stereotyping.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods
  • Delivery, Obstetric / nursing
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / physiopathology
  • Labor, Induced / methods*
  • Oxytocin / administration & dosage*
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Patient Safety*
  • Physician-Nurse Relations*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*


  • Oxytocin