Emergency departments (EDs) are a unique context in which to study communication and its impact on important health outcomes such as patient safety. Communication problems have been cited by the Joint Commission as the most common reason for sentinel patient safety events that result in medical error. Emergency medicine is a largely communicative activity, and several characteristics of the fast-paced and high-stakes work environment complicate effective communication, both with patients and between health care providers.

Work in EDs is unbounded, as there is little control over the workload; staff shortages, limited resources, overcrowding, and long wait times for patients are often the result. Emergency room (ER) work involves multiplicity, caring for numerous patients with highly variable complaints simultaneously. EDs in the United States serve an expanding ...

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