Which Factors Promote Shared Understanding Between Physicians and Nurses in Inpatient Oncology Care Settings?: A Qualitative Exploration

Cancer Nurs. 2022 Mar-Apr;45(2):E338-E344. doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000959.


Background: Effective communication between physicians and nurses is crucial to the safety of patients, especially for those with cancer, which is a complex disease requiring multidisciplinary treatment. However, little is known about the factors that contribute to effective communication, which is defined as the development of shared understanding between two or more people.

Objective: This qualitative secondary analysis was conducted to identify factors that contribute to shared understanding between physicians and nurses from video-recorded conversations that occurred between them during inpatient rounds on oncology units.

Methods: We used inductive grounded theory to identify videos depicting moments of shared understanding. We then searched for preceding events to develop a preliminary conceptual model that described the factors contributing to shared understanding.

Results: Four factors emerged as contributors to shared understanding: engagement, clarification, confirmation, and resolution. These factors occurred in sequence with engagement occurring first and resolution occurring last, as the closure of a communication exchange.

Conclusions: Existing interventions to improve communication include some of the factors identified as contributing to shared understanding (eg, closed-loop communications require clarification and confirmation). However, nurses may need to pay attention to all four factors to develop shared understanding that will promote effective communication with physicians and thereby enhance cancer care.

Implications for practice: Nurses achieve effective communication when they are assertive and avoid indirect communication. A greater awareness of body language and positioning in relation to a physician at the start of a communication exchange may increase the effectiveness of nurse-physician communication.

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Grounded Theory
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Physicians*
  • Qualitative Research