Raising the Bar with SBAR: How to Communicate Effectively

One of the most intimidating parts of starting any new co-op is learning to communicate effectively with both your peers and your senior colleagues. Professionally and concisely explaining your views is difficult, and the potential for misunderstanding is high. In life or death situations that require a quick, informed response, improper communication can lead to unintended negative consequences. That’s why the healthcare community has almost universally adopted the SBAR procedure, which is designed to give the most relevant information as concisely as possible and take the guesswork out of decision making. Having a script to follow helps reduce the intimidation felt by more junior members of the team and helps increase confidence as well. SBAR is not just useful for healthcare workers, however. SBAR can help communication in every field, as long as you follow the steps below.

S- Situation

This is essentially the “why” of your phone call. What prompted you to pick up the phone in the first place? This is usually brief and confined to a sentence or two. The provider needs to know the main issue facing the team or the patient. The other major part of “S” is identifying yourself and your role. Don’t just launch into the problem without letting the person on the other end of the conversation know why they should be listening to you,

Real World Ex: “Hello John, this is Julia, the team leader for the testing program. We just ran the new software from your team and discovered a few bugs that need to be worked out before the launch.”

B- Background

This is where you provide the facts necessary to justify the call. It is also a way to reacquaint the provider or manager with the case. Managers and doctors work on many projects on a daily basis and may not remember every detail. Also, please be sure to have all relevant info in front of you when calling (vital signs, important dates, specific numbers or lab values, etc.). There is nothing worse than being asked a question and not having the answer. No one expects you to remember everything about a patient or product- but you must be able to look up the information quickly and accurately when required,

Real World Ex: “Jake from your team had sent us the Alpha software to test for any issues. The launch date is currently scheduled for Thursday. As we ran our basic testing we discovered that it tends to crash and is very slow with more than minimal use. Additionally, there are issues with security as we were easily able to obtain user passwords during our test.”

A- Assessment

This is where your knowledge comes into play. You know the patient or situation best and you likely have the knowledge to understand what needs to happen next. As a result, the provider or client will look to you for your assessment of the situation. You should have this analysis ready before calling the provider or manager.

Real World Ex: “I believe the software will need more time before launching due to the bugs presented.”

R- Recommendation

Based on the situation presented, what do you feel is the best course of action? Again, you should use your prior knowledge when deciding what to recommend and you should definitely know what your recommendation is before calling.

Real World Ex: “I think my team should run some additional testing before we give this to the client for approval. I’ll need at least three days to run the tests I need to feel comfortable with the software. In light of that, I believe the launch date should be postponed and the client notified so that my team can run the additional testing.”

SBAR is a tool that can be easily implemented to improve communication and ensure that team members receive the most pertinent information in a timely manner. It can be used over the phone, in an email, or in person to ensure that your views on every situation are communicated effectively. While SBAR is crucial for healthcare workers, it is relevant and needed in other areas as well. It saves time while making you seem knowledgeable and ready for any situation.

Julia Thompson is a second year Nursing major in the Bouve College of Health Sciences. She works as a nursing assistant at South Shore Hospital and is currently on her first co-op at Boston Children’s Hospital. She is the secretary of the Northeastern University Student Nurses’ Association and is also involved with Bouve Fellows. Feel free to contact her at thompson.jul@husky.neu.edu with any questions. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

Twitter! Your Networking Secret Weapon

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The pinnacle of my college networking experiences came in the form of tea in New York City with a writer from my favorite magazine. I slipped away from my final semester for a week to network while I could still use the whole “college student figuring out what I want to do with my life” excuse to ask for people’s time. What my career counselor found to be most miraculous about this particular informational interview was not that I was fortunate enough to have it, it was how. In retrospect, my request was quite long-winded and ridiculous. Journalists, I have found, are a laid-back, friendly bunch, though I was too intimidated at the time and could only muster formalities. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first ever tweet had something to do with the frozen vegetable medley I made with dinner, complete with a hashtag I can’t remember. While that account no longer exists, I filled it with 140-character bursts of millennial genius while latching onto every word Bret Easton Ellis and Nikki Sixx tweeted, and used it to catch up with my internet friends. Everybody starts somewhere. When I got my own radio show on WRBB, I created a Twitter account to promote it and the local musicians I spun and interviewed on-air. Twitter continued to prove a worthwhile tool during an internship with ‘stache media/RED Distribution when I began using the same account to post content about larger/more well-known music artists, which were subsequently shared by said artists, venues, and record labels. Tweeting mostly about music, I began having some semblance of clout. And then one Friday, I tweeted #FF (for #FollowFriday, where the goal is to call attention to accounts worth paying attention to) and listed every writer I could find from my favorite magazine. Most of them ignored it, two of them favorited it, and one followed me back. After we started engaging with each other’s posts, I felt comfortable enough to ask him for his email address and sent a request to meet up for an informational interview the next time I was in New York. This was a few years ago, and his family and I keep in touch.

I share this now with the intent to provide basic guidelines for how one can create one’s own experiences and foster meaningful connections (that can turn into friendships) through Twitter. Social networks, after all, are called “networks” for a reason.

Understanding Twitter’s True Value

My favorite thing about Twitter is how accessible people are — the writers, the celebrities, the executives, the Forbes 30 Under 30. On LinkedIn, you need to be a certain degree to a person in order to message him/her, but with Twitter, you can reach out to anyone. Not only does Twitter provide an opportunity to engage with people on a more personal level, it allows you to keep up with industry trends and happenings in real time.


building-up-strong-connections-on-twitterFinding Ideal Contacts

Interested in working at a specific company?
Follow everyone you can who lists employment at your dream company in their bio. Engage with them about the professional content they post (taking interest in the personal life of someone you’ve never interacted with is creepy). As with anything, being overzealous isn’t appealing — liking or retweeting every tweet your ideal connection posts isn’t going to make a good impression. Instead, share a link to an article or video this person posted and include his/her handle at the end with “via @username.” If he/she wrote an article, tweet the link, tag the person, and write about the value it gave you.

Trying to break into a specific field? Find out who the influencers are by following industry publications and those who write for them. The more time you spend reading up on an industry, the more informed you are of real world applications, trends, and executives. When you engage with potential contacts, you’ll come across as someone who pays attention.

Establishing Your Voice & Rules of Engagement (Don’t be a sycophant)

  • Notice what your potential contacts tweet and how they do it. Of course, don’t curse or get political (even if they do), but, given your field, emojis can be acceptable here.
  • Be a human, not a robot. People like authenticity, not those who are all business, so don’t be afraid to intersperse personal tidbits in your posts. Big sports fan? Tweet about the game. Went to a concert one night? Share a photo.
  • When sharing content about your field, tag all those involved and always give credit when and where it’s due.
  • If you’re not knowledgeable about something, be resourceful and do some research. If you don’t know where to start, tweet to an influencer: “Not too familiar with this but would love to learn. Who are your favorite writers on the subject? What websites do you recommend I look at?” If you show an interest in learning, people are apt to respond in your favor.
  • Do NOT “troll” people, start arguments, rant about a bad day you’re having, or subtweet (passive-aggressive hints at a problem or frustration without directly mentioning the issue).

Twitter can be a great networking tool if you take advantage of the platform and create opportunities for yourself. Who knows who you’ll click with and where it could lead? Remember, you can’t control whether people respond to you, but you can control your approach.

A graduate of Northeastern with a degree in English, Ashley previously was the News Director and a DJ for WRBB 104.9 FM, the university’s student-run radio station. When she’s not working at Apple, she writes for music blogs and builds her marketing portfolio. Informational interviews, cooking and rock & roll are some of her favorite things. Tell her what you’re listening to via Twitter @amjcbs or connect with her on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/amjcbs).

 

Advice to my 25-year-old self.

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First, manage your career because no one else will.

When choosing a job, be confident enough to ask yourself “Does this add to my career capital?” Is this something I really love to do? Will this job be a great next step?” I pursued a career path that was in an industry I loved (financial investments) but I was in a job that I hated (stockbroker).  My advice to you if you find yourself in this situation  is before leaving the industry, it is important to explore other career paths within the industry. Financial planner? Financial analyst? Fund Manager? Do some brainstorming and informational interviewing within the industry you love to find out what else is possible. The best ways to get your creative juices flowing is coffee shop with some great creative books or magazines or online blogs. Think Fast Company (www.fastcompany.com).

Second, seek out a mentor. Everyone needs a mentor. You might have different mentors at different stages in your career, but they are important. Remember that mentors are rarely colleagues and not easy to find.

Third, It matters who you spend your free time with.

Who you choose as your friends and partner will matter.  As the years march on, who you hang out with, who you choose as your partner, really does matter. Watch Meg Jay’s Ted talk on Your Defining Decade.

Find friends who support, advise and push each other as you make your way deep into your career and life. It will be fun to manage your career if the people you are spending your free time with are doing the same.

Push yourself to be uncomfortable. Have a career bucket list. Allow yourself the time and space to continually ask yourself “What do I want? What do I love? What are my gifts? Where are my growth edges? That requires a depth of self-knowledge and connection that can only positively affect your life choices. For example, if you want to work internationally, put yourself out there. Tell your company. Be strategic. Learn languages.  Be culturally flexible. At the beginning of my career, my generation stayed put in the cities they grew up in.  What differentiated me was that I moved to various large cities in the United States. San Francisco.  Los Angeles.  Atlanta. Minneapolis. Finally Boston. My willingness to be uncomfortable, displayed a flexibility and adaptability that helped me to manage my career and offer a perspective that employers appreciated. Check out Sohan Gokarn talk about how to stand out.

And Last, dance and dance every day. Sounds absurd but dancing helps you to connect with your true self. It is there that you will find all your answers.

In conclusion, enjoy this video.

What do you think of this advice? Leave your own thoughts in the comments below!

Sharri Harmel works in career development at Northeastern University.. She loves international travel, creative thinkers and good books, all with equal passion. Tweet at her about the article @careercoachNU!