Transferring Patient Care: Patterns of Synchronous Bidisciplinary Communication Between Physicians and Nurses During Handoffs in a Critical Care Unit


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Abstract

Purpose:The transfer of patient care from one health care worker to another involves communication in high-pressure contexts that are often vulnerable to error. This research project captured current practices for handoffs during the critical care stage of surgical recovery in a hospital setting. The objective was to characterize information flow during transfer and identify patterns of communication between nurses and physicians.Design and Methods:Observations were used to document communication exchanges. The data were analyzed qualitatively according to the types of information exchanged and verbal behavior types.Findings:Reporting and questions were the most common verbal behaviors, and retrospective medical information was the focus of information exchange. The communication was highly interactive when discussing patient status and future care plans. Nurses proactively asked questions to capture a large proportion of the information they needed.Conclusions:Findings reflect positive and constructive patterns of communication during handoffs in the observed hospital unit.

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