Nurses’ perception of shift handovers in Europe – results from the European Nurses’ Early Exit Study


Anne Meißner:


Aim.  This paper reports a study exploring nurses’ perceptions of the shift handover and the possible reasons for reported dissatisfaction in 10 European countries.

Background.  The nursing handover fulfils a number of purposes and has important consequences for the continuity of patient care and nurses’ satisfaction with the quality of care they are able to provide. However, the performance and function of shift handovers in health care is a widely neglected topic in practice and research.

Method.  The Nurses’ Early Exit Study ( investigates the working conditions of nurses and variables influencing nursing retention. The data for this analysis were collected between 2002 and 2003 by self-report questionnaires in 10 European countries.

Findings.  The percentage of nurses dissatisfied with shift handovers ranged from 22% in England to 61% in France. In most countries the main reason for dissatisfaction with shift handovers was ‘too many disturbances’, followed by ‘lack of time’. Most countries showed similar associations of dissatisfaction with qualification level and occupational seniority, but not with position and type of shift. ‘Poor quality of leadership’ and ‘poor support from colleagues’, were strongly associated with dissatisfaction.

Conclusions.  In several (but not all) European countries, shift handovers may be a frequent cause for nurses’ irritation. The underlying causes appear to be of an organizational nature. The findings have implications for solutions. Further debate and research should clarify the different purposes of shift handovers and relate them to handover style and to the quality of patient care.