Interdisciplinary communication is critical for patient safety across the healthcare continuum, particularly in a setting such as an oncology infusion center. One way our institution addressed communication barriers and looked to enhance understanding of each other’s roles related to patient care was by creating an oncology service line pharmacy and nursing committee.

Our purpose was to improve patient outcomes related to chemotherapy medication delivery. The committee’s charge was to establish guidelines, tools, and policy recommendations supporting safe and effective operations among each discipline. The pharmacy team is compounding high-risk medications, and the nurses are administering complicated treatment regimens. Our focus at all times needs to be patients and their safety when they trust our team to deliver the medication therapy they need.

Communication from other disciplinary teams was essential as well. As we identified areas for improvement, we needed input from the informatics team and the physician team not only to understand the root of medication and process errors but also to have buy-in from everyone to make a positive change to improve safety.

By continually working across disciplinary lines, two things stand out to me: (a) the open culture we have fostered to discuss medication and process errors and (b) the interdisciplinary collaboration and expediency in which we move to solve the issues at hand and prevent future issues. From this work, we have started reporting out metrics and have created a medication safety report card. We are able to pull out specific barriers to safe and timely medication delivery or find a trend in medication errors and brainstorm potential solutions as a team.

Nurses and pharmacists should consider partnering in a structured manner to foster respectful knowledge and communication of each discipline’s professional responsibilities. Creating open communication and partnership can be as simple as spending a day walking in each other’s shoes. At Froedtert, we have new nurses shadow in the pharmacy for a day, and new pharmacists shadow a nurse in our infusion center for a day during their orientation and training. The perspective this gives new team members sets the foundation for safe practices and open lines of communication.