Shift change: The benefits of nurse hand-offs at the bedside

Despite some concerns from nurses that handing off care at the patient's bedside may take too much time and potentially violate patient confidentiality, more hospitals are changing the way nurses conduct shift changes, according to the Wall Street Journal. The result: Improved patient safety, better communication and a spike in patient satisfaction.

Research shows that hospitals that put bedside handovers into practice reduce the chance of medical errors. They also have a documented effect on patient satisfaction because it gives patients and nurses the opportunity to clarify information and ask questions.

"Conducting nurse change-of-shift reports at the bedside with the patient and family should be viewed as a core safety strategy in hospitals today," said Beverley Johnson, chief executive officer of the Institute for Patient-and-Family-Centered Care, a nonprofit group based in Bethesda, Maryland, that provides training for hospitals on how to adopt bedside shift reporting. "It is a very tangible way to ensure that complete and accurate information is shared and there is mutual understanding of the care plan and other priorities," she told the publication.

Most hospitals have the shift change take place at the nursing station or have nurses write up a report in the patient's medical record that new nurses can read when they take over. But in many cases, they miss crucial information with this traditional approach, according to the article.

And for those nurses who are resistant to the change for fear of potential privacy violations, patient advocates claim it shouldn't be an issue if patients are told that others may overhear the conversations or are given the option to designate which family members may be present at the shift change, the WSJ reports.

Moreover, bedside shift reporting doesn't take a significant amount of time. Nurses may spend three to seven minutes with each patient, according to the article. Nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, for example, follow a six-step format that includes safety checks, a discussion of any tests and asking patients whether there is anything they want the nurses to know.

To learn more:
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