Nursing clinical handover improvement practices among acute inpatients in a tertiary hospital in Sydney: a best practice implementation project

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Abstract

Background:

The nursing handover normally occurs at the beginning of a nurse's shift and is considered essential for continuity of care. Nursing handovers have the potential to communicate accurate information about a patient's condition, treatment and anticipated needs but also to be ineffective or even harmful if information is incomplete or omitted. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has recognized clinical handover as a National Standard, thus reinforcing its importance.

Objectives:

This project aimed to conduct an audit of nursing clinical handover practices to implement evidence-based best practice recommendations to assess the effectiveness of these strategies to maximize the effectiveness of clinical handover across 11 units in a large tertiary hospital.

Methods:

The project used the Joanna Briggs Institute's Practical Application of Clinical Evidence System and Getting Research into Practice audit tool for promoting change in healthcare practice. A baseline audit of 330 observations of nursing clinical handover was conducted and measured against seven best practice recommendations, followed by the implementation of targeted strategies and a follow-up audit.

Results:

The baseline audit revealed significant deficits between current practice and best practice in all but one criterion. Barriers for implementation of nursing clinical handover best practice criteria were identified by the project team, and a bundled education strategy was implemented. There were significantly improved outcomes across all best practice criteria in the follow-up audit.

Conclusions:

The findings showed how audits may be used to promote best practice in healthcare and that focused education and provision of relevant resources can have an immediate and positive impact on clinical practice. Some of the measured criteria improved to a moderate degree, leaving room for improvement; however, by the end of the project attitudes toward nursing clinical handover had been “transformed” from a passive routine “must do” task to an active process with a focus on safety and patient/carer engagement. Future audits are planned to ensure sustainability.

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