Communication Key to Patient Safety In Any Theater of Operation


Evan Skinner, BSN, RN, CCRN, CEN, a member of the University of Chicago Medicine’s Rapid Response Team (RRT), is committed to patient safety.

He’s adamant that one of the most important ways to accomplish this is through clear, concise and effective communication between all healthcare providers.

“If I have the ability to make sure the patients under my care are safe because I effectively communicate with the individuals who are associated with that care, why would I not?” he asks. “Every single interaction between clinicians and patients requires good, to-the-point communication.”

Skinner is no-nonsense when he speaks: his language is precise and his cadence is quick and clipped, befitting somebody who is also in the military as a Captain and nurse officer in the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

Skinner has been deployed twice, once in Germany (November 2011-January 2012) and the other in Afghanistan (May 2012-January 2013), as a member of the Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), and as a member of an Army Forward Surgical Team (FST) respectively.

These deployments, which in both cases involved working on trauma-related cases in small groups under difficult conditions, has given Skinner the opportunity to learn new skills and take on more responsibility than he would otherwise as a nurse in the U.S.

And while there often is an adjustment period when returning to civilian life after a deployment, one thing is the same.

“You have to have the ability to communicate regardless of the type of environment you’re working in,” he said.

A focus on communication was a big component of the Telluride Patient Safety Summer Camp that Skinner attended this summer outside of Washington, D.C.

Experts in patient safety, risk reduction, legal, communication and patient advocacy joined with medical students, residents, and graduate nursing students in an informal setting designed to explore, develop and refine a culture of patient safety

Attendance at these increasingly sought-after week-long seminars is very competitive. Applications are reviewed by a panel of national patient safety leaders. Skinner received a full scholarship to attend.

Evan is known to be passionate about patient safety and works very hard to keep patients safe and at the appropriate level of care in the Emergency Room or when called upon for rapid responses. His safety work has focused on safe patient hand-overs, safe patient discharges with support from appropriate community resources, preventing readmissions, assuring patients are placed at an appropriate level of care post-response to an RRT call, and breaking down hierarchies for improved communication, teamwork and collaboration”-  an excerpt from his letter of recommendation to attend the camp.

Skinner joined the Critical Care Outreach Team in February of 2014. Prior to that, he was an Assistant Care Manager in the adult emergency department.

Skinner, left, then a First Lieutenant, and U.S. Air Force Medic Staff Sergean Wilfredo Abas, right, flank their Afghanistan translator.

Skinner, left, then a First Lieutenant, and U.S. Air Force Medic Staff Sergeant Wilfredo Abas, right, flank their Afghanistan translator.

He is now part of a team of 10 nurses whose primary responsibility is to prevent cardiac arrests outside of intensive care areas.

The RRT nurse, along with the primary physician, respiratory therapy, pharmacy and the primary nurse, all work together to provide interventions and decide on a plan of care for the patient, said Meredith Borak, MSN, RN, Patient Care Manager, Rescue Care & Resiliency and Manager, Resuscitation Core-UC Simulation.

“The role requires RN’s to think and act quickly so a sense of urgency is a must!” said Borak. “Evan’s experience in the Emergency Department and the work he does with the National Guard has definitely made his transition into a Critical Care Outreach RN a smooth one.”

“If I’m talking quickly, I’m not doing it because I want to be rude,” said Skinner. “It’s because I need a lot of information right now and I need to have the ability to sort through it. I need to act on it and I have a very definite time frame in which I must act.”

Skinner believes there is room for improvement in the way physicians and nurses communicate with each other, and sometimes the RRT nurses bridge the gap urging each side to be more explicit with the other.

Skinner, a native of Tulsa, Okla., but who grew up in Green Bay, Wisc., is finishing up a Master’s of Science in Nursing at Loyola University. His thesis is on examining the use of fresh, whole blood in trauma centers – something he saw work miracles in front-line military units.

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