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Study finds benefits in conducting patient handoffs at bedside

Friday November 22, 2013
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Nurses can reduce potential errors by engaging in bedside handoffs, according to a small Canadian study.

“The state and end of a nurse’s shift are critical moments,” Lianne Jeffs, RN, PhD, the study’s lead author and nursing research chair at St. Michael’s Hospital’s Volunteer Association in Toronto, said in a news release. “Having handover take place at the bedside with patients is better for everyone, but especially for our patients. It means they have a voice, better understand their treatment and are engaged in their care.”

Published Nov. 18 on the website of the Journal of Nursing Care Quality, and comprised of qualitative interviews with 45 patients, this research builds on Jeffs’ ongoing study of transitions across the healthcare system. Study participants described bedside handoffs as engaging, personal and informative but indicated the importance of recognizing and being sensitive to patient preferences — which can change over time and from patient to patient.

Traditionally, nurses exchanged patient information between shifts through tape recordings or verbal briefings at nursing stations. Bedside handoffs require nurses to exchange pertinent patient information such as clinical conditions, allergies and care plans with patients in their rooms.

By taking the handoff to the patient, nurses and patients see each other sooner. Bedside handoffs also allow patients to ask questions and clarify information with both nurses, an opportunity that has been shown to relieve anxiety and improve patient satisfaction, according to the news release.

“Most patients felt safer, more satisfied and better informed of their care plan,” said Jeffs, also a Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute scientist at St. Michael’s. “But some long-term patients did not want to participate in the twice-daily routine because their conditions had not changed from day to day.”

Bedside handoffs are more efficient and effective from a nursing perspective too. “When we did handover at the nursing station, we had to begin prioritizing our patients’ care before we’d ever met them,” Terri Irwin, St. Michael’s Hospital’s professional practice leader in nursing, said in the news release. “By seeing patients right away, nurses can assess all their patients’ conditions and prioritize care within the first 15 minutes of our shift.”

The practice was piloted at St. Michael’s Hospital in 2011, and nurses on every medical and surgical unit in the facility now perform handoffs at their patient’s bedside.

Study access (via subscription or purchase): http://journals.lww.com/jncqjournal/Abstract/publishahead/Patients__Views_on_Bedside_Nursing_Handover_.99780.aspx


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