Communication and Safety

Communication and safety are interlinked and all staff have a role to play in making sure that they work together to ensure that the care they provide is as safe as possible. This section helps you to learn more about how communication helps you to work safely in your team.

The Safe Practice unit explores a wide range of issues about ensuring patient safety. However, the interaction of communication and safety is explored here.

NES Patient safety model

If you want to learn more about patient safety in more detail you may want to complete the NES E-learning module: Introduction to Patient Safety. This module takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete. NES E-learning module: Introduction to Patient Safety

Human factors

Human factors can be defined as the '…environmental, organisational and job factors and the human and individual characteristics which influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety…'  (Evidence into Practice)

Using this definition, critically examine communication in your work setting where there are potentially risks to patients/clients using the 3 buckets approach.

This approach will help you identify where the risks to effective communication lie and how the team can work together to minimise these risks.

  • Discuss what you have identified with your mentor or your team.
  • Are there actions that you can put into practice? How can you do this?

Team communication

By working together the team can contribute to patient safety. The Quality Improvement Hub highlights some basic ways that in which you can contribute to patient safety and one of these key ways is through the team communicating effectively.

Look critically at how your team communicates amongst themselves e.g. passing on clinical information and shift start/finish handovers. Identify where errors could happen and some minor changes that could improve patient safety.

Are there actions you could put into practice? Discuss these with your mentor and make a portfolio entry about what you have identified and could put into practice.  Return to this entry in 3 months and review the progress you have made.

A safe journey

Plot a typical patient/client journey for your workplace and include the key information that needs to be communicated at each stage and the team members involved.

  • Where are the risks to patient/client safety?
  • How does each member contribute individually to patient/client safety?
  • How do the team work together to contribute to patient/client safety?

Communicating between teams and team members

Communication between teams and team members is a well-recognised area where situations and circumstances can influence the quality of the communication and impact on patient/client safety.

Identify one of the SBAR film scenarios that reflect a situation you may encounter in practice and watch the video. SBAR is a structured method for communicating information in many situations, however the film scenarios can be used independently.

Reflect on how you would act in a similar situation and how effective communication with colleagues can improve communication in the team and patient/client safety. You will find the SBAR headings a good way to frame your reflections. The headings are Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendations. Further information about SBAR is available from the NHSScotland QI hub.

Sharing information online and your professional role

Social networking/ social media are being increasingly used, not only by individuals in their social lives, but also by businesses and organisations and individuals in relation to their professional lives.  This use of social media professionally brings additional considerations that need to be uppermost in the minds of users, and there needs to be some caution about how this is used and the information that is shared.

Your professional regulator has produced guidance about the use of social media:

Review the guidance that is relevant to you and reflect on the particular issues that you need to remember if/when using social networking or media in relation to professional or work issues. Issues that you should consider include:

  • ensuring confidentiality of patients/clients
  • ensuring the confidentiality of the other people you come into contact with including colleagues
  • maintaining the standards of conduct expected for your profession
  • being mindful of the impact of your communications on others

Reflect on these issues in relation to your regulator's guidance and record specific action points for you to adhere to when using social media. Record your reflections and action points and enter them in your portfolio.


Having worked through a selection of the activities in this section, you should summarise your learning, highlighting how this may affect your future practice. You can share your findings with your mentor.

Add an alert to your Flying Start portfolio and /or make a date in your diary to revisit Communication and Safety