Thursday, 8 October 2015

Nursing handovers as a source or error

Roger Watson, Editor

Nursing handovers are the opportunity—between nursing shifts—to share information about patients and to discuss care priorities. They take place collectively and individually, their effectiveness is questionable and they may be one of the ‘rituals’ of nursing. However, if inaccurate information is transmitted then they can, potentially, do great harm. In this study from Switzerland by Mayor and Bangerter (2015) titled: 'Managing perturbations during handover meetings: a joint activity framework’ nursing handovers are investigated.

In the words of the authors: ‘Handovers are joint activities performed collaboratively by participating nurses. Perturbations of handover are frequent and may potentially threaten continuity of care.’ To conduct the study, handovers were videotaped and transcribed over several days. Unfortunately, nurses were the source of ‘perturbations’ which led to mistakes in the handovers. The article is presented with photographs to illustrate one incident and excerpts from the transcripts.

In the discussion, the authors state: ‘Perturbations are managed via a tacit division of labour according to nurses’ temporal status as incoming or outgoing. As outgoing nurses who are not giving the report will subsequently leave, they are thus more available to deal with perturbations. Incoming nurses need to process information discussed during the handover, but can deal with perturbations to some extent because their colleagues can still repeat information to them after the handover. Outgoing nurses giving the report are least likely to handle perturbations.’


Mayor E, Bangerter A (2015) Managing perturbations during handover meetings: a joint activity framework Nursing Open doi: 10.1002/nop2.29

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