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Nursing handovers: do we really need them?


Malcolm Elliott
Department of Nursing
University of Wollongong
Northfields Avenue
Wollongong, NSW
Australia 2522


Aim  This study attempts to address the content of nursing handover when compared with formal documentation sources.

Background  The nursing handover has attracted criticism in the literature in relation to its continuing role in modern nursing. Criticisms include those related to time expenditure, content, accuracy and the derogatory terms in which patients are sometimes being discussed.

Methods  Twenty-three handovers, covering all shifts, from one general medical ward were audio-taped. Their content was analysed and classified according to where, within a ward's documentation systems, the information conveyed could be located.

Findings  Results showed that almost 84.6% of information discussed could be located within existing ward documentation structures and 9.5% of information discussed was not relevant to ongoing patient care. Only 5.9% of handover content involved discussions related to ongoing care or ward management issues that could not be recorded in an existing documentation source.

Limitations  The results of this study are representative of only one ward in one Australian Hospital. Specific documentation sources were also not checked to determine their content.

Conclusion  Streamlining the nursing handover may improve the quality of the information presented and reduce the amount of time spent in handover.