Shift Change: You Kind of Had to Be There

Shift Change: You Kind of Had to Be There

Poor communication can harm patients and health systems

Properly executed, shift change welcomes a fresh group of nurses ready to maintain high-quality care across the unit. Done in haste, with lax or ineffective communication, the same shift change can end in preventable treatment errors by caregivers, injury for patients, and “moral, ethical, legal, and financial implications” for health systems. “Despite regulatory pressures, organizations have struggled to optimize handover,” summarized Jennifer Milesky, Diana Baptiste and a colleague in “An Observational Study of Patient Handover Communications Among Nurses on an Oncology Critical Care Unit,” published in Contemporary Nurse.

The answer is not unfamiliar: Standardize the process, do it right, and repeat it every time.  Yet the challenge remains.

The researchers share observations from successful handovers at an oncology unit, where “the merging of the two specialties of oncology and critical care requires a deliberate practice of functional communication between all members of the care team who often have diverse backgrounds, expertise, and priorities.”

The researchers share what such a handover requires, and looks like in real time.

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