• discharge;
  • emergency department;
  • information transfer;
  • mixed-method narrative review;
  • multi-trauma patients;
  • nursing

calleja p., aitken l.m. & cooke m.l. (2011) Information transfer for multi-trauma patients on discharge from the emergency department: mixed-method narrative review. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(1), 4–18.


Aim.  This paper is a report of a review conducted to identify (a) best practice in information transfer from the emergency department for multi-trauma patients; (b) conduits and barriers to information transfer in trauma care and related settings; and (c) interventions that have an impact on information communication at handover and beyond.

Background.  Information transfer is integral to effective trauma care, and communication breakdown results in important challenges to this. However, evidence of adequacy of structures and processes to ensure transfer of patient information through the acute phase of trauma care is limited.

Data sources.  Papers were sourced from a search of 12 online databases and scanning references from relevant papers for 1990–2009.

Review methods.  The review was conducted according to the University of York’s Centre for Reviews and Dissemination guidelines. Studies were included if they concerned issues that influenced information transfer for patients in healthcare settings.

Results.  Forty-five research papers, four literature reviews and one policy statement were found to be relevant to parts of the topic, but not all of it. The main issues emerging concerned the impact of communication breakdown in some form, and included communication issues within trauma team processes, lack of structure and clarity during handovers including missing, irrelevant and inaccurate information, distractions and poorly documented care.

Conclusion.  Many factors influence information transfer but are poorly identified in relation to trauma care. The measurement of information transfer, which is integral to patient handover, has not been the focus of research to date. Nonetheless, documented patient information is considered evidence of care and a resource that affects continuing care.