Nursing Handoff: Ensuring Easy Transitions for Patients


In the healthcare industry, it is not uncommon for different healthcare professionals to treat a patient. This can happen because of shift changes or other circumstances. This switch is known as a “handoff” and it is actually very common. During this transition, it is important that not only the patients but also the staff feel at ease. So, in this blog, we will go into more detail about what a nursing handoff is specifically, what it entails, and the importance of a nursing handoff report.

nursing handoff

What is Nursing Handoff Exactly?

Generally speaking, a “handoff” is the transferring of patient knowledge or information, along with the responsibility of care from one physician or team of clinicians to another. For nurses, a nursing handoff is also named a “bedside handoff”. It is a time when patient responsibility is transferred from one nurse to another at the change of the shift. A nurse can’t stay on duty 24/7 for their patients. Doing such a thing could cause quick burnout or compassion fatigue, so this is where a nursing handoff becomes extremely important, for both the patient and the nurse.

According to Stanford Health Care, the goals of a nursing handoff are:

  • Providing continuity of care and increase patient safety
  • Generate communication between nurses by providing structured time for transitioning
  • Decrease the patient’s and family’s anxiety and feelings of “abandonment” at the shift change
  • Increase teamwork, relationships among nurses, and nurse-patient relationships

The purpose of a handoff is to provide the next nurse with all of the vital information that they may need to treat the patient to the best of their ability. The effectiveness and efficiency of the nursing handoff can impact the patient’s safety and stress levels.

The Importance of a Nursing Handoff Report

So why is a nursing handoff report so important?

Nursing handoff reports are extremely important in providing the next nurse on duty with all of the pertinent information for the patients they’ll be taking on.

Perhaps you’ve received a nursing handoff report quickly because the previous nurse was exhausted and now you are left confused. Yet, you are still responsible for the care and safety of these patients. Thorough reports make it easy for you to provide efficient care. This is why nursing handoff reports are extremely important during this chaotic transition between shifts.

To ensure that your patients are being well taken care of, make sure you provide the next nurse with a clear account of everything. In the next section, we’ll discuss a few things that are essential to include in any nursing handoff report to make it successful.

Five Sections to Include in a Nursing Handoff Report

As discussed previously, it is important to provide a clear account of the patient’s situation for the next nurse in your nursing handoff report. Consider including these five sections in your report to facilitate an easy transition.

1. Patient Overview

For your reports, it is important to include a broad picture of the shift. This can be given in a brief narrative that includes any critical facts or on-going issues.

2. Assessment

First, the initial part of your patient report should then include basic information about the patient, such as:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Allergies
  • Code status
  • Codeword
  • Admission history
  • IV access
  • Medical history

Next, the second part of the patient report can then include medical information such as:

  • Recent Vital Signs
  • Critical Labs / Results
  • Exams for:
    • Neurological
    • Cardio
    • Pulmonary
    • Gastrointestinal
    • Skin/wounds
    • Musculoskeletal
    • etc.

All of this will provide the next nurse with vital information and ensure that they don’t go in blindsided.

3. Safety Concerns

In this section, tell the nurse about the patient environment and any potential risks that could result in patient harm. For instance, this would include fall risks if the patient is older.

If the next nurse comes in without knowing this information, it could result in patient injury!

4. Plan of Care

Near the end of the report, you should inform the incoming nurse of your plan of care. This would include any upcoming procedures, any patient education, and actionable plans that you may be considering for them. By doing this, the next nurse will be able to make informed decisions while on duty that are right for this specific patient.

5. Time for Questions

Lastly, always give the next nurse a chance to ask questions so they can clarify information. A confused nurse isn’t a nurse that can provide efficient care. So, to ensure the safety and comfort of the patient, take the time to clarify and answer any questions that the new nurse may have.

How do you handle nursing handoffs? Let us know in the comments below…

Author: Travel Nurse Source

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