• Interprofessional care;
  • nurse–physician communication;
  • safety

PROBLEM.  Nurse–physician communication affects patient safety. Such communication has been well studied using a variety of survey and observational methods; however, missing from the literature is an investigation of what constitutes effective and ineffective interprofessional communication from the perspective of the professionals involved. The purpose of this study was to explore nurse and physician perceptions of effective and ineffective communication between the two professions.

METHODS.  Using focus group methodology, we asked nurses and physicians with at least 5 years' acute care hospital experience to reflect on effective and ineffective interprofessional communication and to provide examples. Three focus groups were held with 6 participants each (total sample 18). Sessions were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded into categories of effective and ineffective communication.

FINDINGS.  The following themes were found. For effective communication: clarity and precision of message that relies on verification, collaborative problem solving, calm and supportive demeanor under stress, maintenance of mutual respect, and authentic understanding of the unique role. For ineffective communication: making someone less than, dependence on electronic systems, and linguistic and cultural barriers.

CONCLUSION.  These themes may be useful in designing learning activities to promote effective interprofessional communication.