Improving the handover and transport of critically ill pediatric patients

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Aims and Objectives

The aims of this project were to (a) determine barriers to current handover and transport process, (b) develop a new protocol and process for team-to-team handover, and (c) evaluate staff satisfaction with the new process.


The handover and transport of critically ill patients from the paediatric emergency department to the paediatric intensive care unit is a period of vulnerability associated with adverse events.


A mixed-methods study using a quasi-experimental design and qualitative approach.


Focus groups were conducted to determine the barriers and facilitators of the current handover and transport process. Using these themes, a multidisciplinary team developed and implemented a new process including establishment of eight patient criteria for specialised transport and a standardised, interdisciplinary handover tool for team-to-team handover. Staff satisfaction was examined pre- and postintervention.


Content analysis of focus groups revealed five categories: need for improved communication, cultural dissonance among units, defects in system and processes, need for standardisation and ambiguity between providers regarding acuity. Staff members reported improvements in their perceptions of satisfaction, safety, communication and role understanding associated with the new process.


Standardisation through the establishment of severity of illness criteria and communication tools creates shared mental models and decreases risks to safety. A paradigm shift of team-to-team handover and transport is recommended.

Relevance to clinical practice

This paper suggests the importance of improving communication during the handover and transport process through establishing standardised patient severity of illness criteria, use of standardised tools and team-to-team handover processes.

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