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A Deeper Look at Bedside Handoffs

Bedside handoff of a patient by the nurse caring for him or her on one shift to the nurse who will be providing care on the next shift is a practice that is gaining in popularity – and for good reason; the benefits are impacting nurses, patients and their families.

bedside-handoff-nursingThe simple, patient- focused act of exchanging change-of-shift information about a patient’s care via a bedside handoff – at the patient’s bedside, including the patient and his or her family members – rather than from behind a desk far removed from the patient, as has traditionally been the practice, increases the patient’s and their family’s involvement in the patient’s care.

The bedside handoff provides the patient, and his or her family, with an opportunity to clear up any misconceptions, ask questions, and share their concerns and goals about the patient’s care. It also increases the patient’s understanding of their care and directly involves them in the process of making decisions about their own health care and treatment.

Bedside handoffs have also led to an improved perception of care. Patients and their families say they feel less abandoned during shift changes when the more patient-focused procedure is used. Survey results show patients make fewer calls for nursing assistance, for things like toileting and pain control, during the nursing shift changes when they are conducted as bedside handoffs rather than far away and not involving the patient.

From a nursing standpoint, bedside handoffs facilitate improved communication between shifts by allowing for a designated period of time to discuss a specific patient that includes the patient’s input, concerns and priorities. This improved communication can foster and grow mutual trust and respect among nursing teams. The practice also increases accountability for an individual’s nursing practices.

The patient-focused practice of bedside handoffs can significantly minimize the potential for errors by providing the incoming nurse with the opportunity to connect a face to the patient that is being discussed. Bedside handoffs also effect more accurate intravenous medication reconciliations between two nurses at shift changes.

Nurses feel empowered by these more comprehensive bedside handoffs that allow them to prioritize patient care more effectively. Patient and safety in institutions who provide the patient-focused bedside handoffs has risen too.  It’s a simple change with a big effects.

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Tom Prose