Improving Patient-Staff Communication Through White Boards

Intervention Title:
Improving Patient-Staff Communication Through White Boards – North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital, Great Neck, N.Y.

Improve sharing of information between patients and nurses to keep front-line staff and patients better informed.

Staff placed white boards in all patient rooms, allowing nurses to outline patient goals and the plan of care for the day.

The care team, including nurses, physicians and physical therapists, as well as the patient and family members, are better informed and working more as a team.

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital
400 Lakeville Road
Suite 170 - Institute for Nursing
New Hyde Park, NY 11042
P: (718) 470-7000

From the experts:
β€œOne of our key drivers as a hospital is to keep patients informed. Implementing white boards as a communications tool has put our nurses closer to the bedside and improved information shared between our patients and their care team. Using white boards has turned into a best practice.”

Denise Mazzapica, B.S.N.
Nurse Manager, 5 South
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital

Elizabeth Knudsen, M.O.T., M.P.H.
Director, Service Excellence
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital

North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital is a network composed of 15 hospitals, headquartered in Great Neck, N.Y.

Clinical areas affected:

  • All hospital units

Staff involved:

  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Physical therapists

Staff spent two to three weeks testing the program on a unit.

Kerri Scanlon
Chief Nursing Officer
P: (718) 470-7973

Innovation implementation:
In order to improve information shared with patients and improve communication, North Shore-Long Island Jewish hospital placed white boards in patient rooms. These boards served as a place for nurses and physicians to clearly list patients' daily goals as well as their care plan for the day and any tests scheduled. Posting this vital information in a prominent place helped patients, families and different staff stay better informed about the daily plan.

In addition to providing key patient information, the white boards also began to serve as a place where language preferences could be listed, so a caregiver immediately knew when walking into a patient room what language the patient spoke. Patients also added their own notes to the white boards, which turned it into a place for two-way communication with their providers.

Because the use of white boards was so successful, bigger boards were implemented. The new boards included preprinted categories, including the shift nurse's name, the physician, the daily plan, tests scheduled, and a section where patients and families can write notes. The preset categories help drive communication by establishing what needs to be communicated between the patient and care team.

Advice and lessons learned:

  1. Role play. Before placing white boards in patient rooms, role play to determine what needs to be communicated so that the boards are inclusive and well understood by staff.
  2. Update daily. It's better to have no white board than to have one that is not used or updated regularly at shift changes.
  3. Use a prepopulated board. Use a board with preset categories to ensure that all vital information that needs to be communicated is listed. Include an area where families and patients can write notes.
  4. Make it permanent. Instead of just placing white boards in patient rooms, permanently install them so that they become part of the culture of the unit and hospital.

Cost/benefit estimate:
Since implementing white boards, Press Ganey scores improved 2.5 points, resulting in a five percent increase in overall institution satisfaction.