5 Tips for More Effective Shift Handoffs

One of the most essential parts of your job to give end-of-shift reports to incoming nurses and patient care teams, but it’s not always an easy task. You’ve just put in your 12 hours and you want out of there. The nurse to whom you’re handing over your patient has a lot of questions and you need to spend time making sure they are thoroughly briefed in order to ensure the very best care for your patients. You may need to work on your approach in order to provide more effective shift handoffs.  

For temporary staff and agency nurses the handover reports can be somewhat confusing. Although medical facilities seem to use similar protocols for effective shift handoffs there are certain facility-specific practices that occur, making it sometimes challenging to the already-weary nurse. For the benefit of you coworkers and the patients in your care you need to be thorough. Here are 5 tips for more effective shift handoffs that you can start incorporating today.

5 Tips for Effective Shift Handoffs

Always Be Prepared:  If you were in Scouts, or knew someone who was a scout, you’re likely familiar with this adage. Being prepared has saved many a scout and it will help you with more effective shift handoffs. Approach your end-of-shift report in the same manner you would when giving a report to the patient’s doctor. Be precise and make sure all of your facts are clearly stated. 

Be Ready for Questions:  Put yourself in the next nurses place and try to anticipate what questions they may have. What would you want to know-need to know-about the patient and the upcoming shift? Instead of waiting until the next nurse asks a question, ask them to repeat as they understand it to be. This will clear up any doubt.

Remember Nursing is 24/7:  Your responsibility to your patients and co-staff doesn’t end when the clock says your shift is over, just as the nurse who was on the shift before yours rolled some duties and tasks over to you, so must you for the next nurse. For more effective shift handoffs you need to be prepared that some tasks will need to rollover. Understand and communicate clearly all of those tasks and action items involved in caring for your patients. It doesn’t matter if these tasks were there before you arrived. 

Stay Organized: While this bit of advice might seem like “Nursing 101” it’s surprising how habits can develop. Although there is no right or wrong way to give an assessment, if you aren’t organized in your thoughts some things can be missed. Should the next nurse interrupt you with a question you didn’t anticipate you may lose track of your patient assessment and their needs. When you have to give a lengthy report theres a chance you might jump around or get off track and some crucial information won’t be reported. If possible try to give your handoff reports bedside. Staying organized is key in providing more effective shift handoffs.

Patient Care is a Team Effort: Remember you are all a part of the team providing care to your patient and that is the most important item. Be respectful, kind, and professional. Leave your patients with confidence in the next shift. Let them know they will be well cared for by the next nurse. Keep notes and don’t rely on your memory. Be positive and upbeat, it’s contagious! Most of all practice concise and clear directives. 

The most effective shift handoffs happen when the nurse stays organized and the handoff report is in the nurses mind throughout the day. The skill of providing effective shift handoffs can be practiced and improved when you incorporate these 5 tips. You may need to also practice effective and efficient communication skills. Keep working at it and you will be known far and wide for your effective shift handoffs.

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