Top Tips For A Most Efficient Nursing Handover


A nurse’s day won’t be complete without nursing handover. It’s when one nurse hands over not just the responsibility of care but also all the information concerning patients.

In general, nurses can categorize the sections of a nursing handover into three parts:

A. Past

This section involves everything the healthcare team needs to know about the patient and the plan of care.

For example, if your patient is newly admitted, you may need to cover the important pieces of information prior to admission.

B. Present

In this section, you can talk about the patient’s condition during your shift. This is also where you’ll discuss any changes in the treatment plan, completed procedures and tests, and any important orders from the doctors.

C. Future

Discuss the tasks that the next nurse needs to complete. You can hand over tasks you weren’t able to complete in your shift or tasks that are required to be completed at a certain time.

Styles of nursing handover

Some nurses are used to doing handovers while talking to each other. There are nurses who do it while reading the patient’s notes.

For some nurses, doing handovers at the patient’s bedside is better because it allows patients to contribute if they want to. It also enables patients to clarify things.

Quality of sleep is a good example. A patient may appear like he had a good night’s sleep to the nurse. If that’s not the case, he can easily clarify it and correct the nurse.

When doing bedside handovers, it’s important to avoid “paternalism”. This can happen when nurses communicate in a way that the patients don’t understand. It confuses them and makes them feel uncomfortable.

Tips for An Effective Handover

1. Be organized

In nursing, organization is next to godliness and that applies to nurse handovers, too.

Think of it this way:

If you are telling lab results in the middle of explaining your head to toe assessment, you’re not being organized.

This isn’t just frustrating for the other nurses but it can also cause you to leave out important details. Moreover, other nurses won’t be able to follow you.

To give you an overview, here’s an example of how you should give your reports.

  • Patient information

Consider this as a brief introduction of the patient. You can also introduce yourself and the oncoming nurse to the patients.

  • Presenting complaint

Be clear and concise with this. You don’t need to tell every single detail that can be read on the patient’s chart.

  • Significant History

Make this brief but informative. Include details that are pertinent to the patient’s current presentation.

For example, if the patient has a history of emphysema, you can tell the other nurse if he’s on home oxygen and how many hours a day.

  • Treatment

For this, explain the treatment that has already been given as well as what the healthcare team is currently doing. Also, include important details like phobias, allergies, and even family dynamics.

  • Plan

Explain any tasks that need to be handed over to the next nurses as well as the path of the treatment.

2. Create a checklist

Some healthcare institutions follow or use a predetermined framework. If yours don’t have one, you can create your own following certain national guidelines.

One of them is the National Early Warning Score System. It’s a tool created by the Royal College of Physicians to prioritize physiological observations of patients. The SBAR (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation) framework is another good tool.

3. Focus

There are nurses who love to talk. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you should keep in mind that the receiving nurses don’t need to know everything that happened in your entire shift. You need to focus on important details and don’t ramble on about your shift or the patient.

4. Prioritize confidentiality

When discussing patients and their health conditions, you need to be discreet. This is particularly important if you are discussing important information at the station or at the bedside. Private information should only be heard by the right people.

5. Observe honesty

Accountability and honesty are critical in nursing handovers because they affect how the incoming nurse will care for the patients. Missing out or omitting something important may compromise the patient’s health and safety.

For example, if you fail to complete a task, just say it so that the receiving nurse can complete it.

6. Avoid repetition

If you go on with routine information, such as diagnosis and age, you may not get to the things the incoming nurse doesn’t know.

7. Allow time for queries

After a handover, give enough time for the other nurse to ask questions or clarify things. Doing this will help avoid confusion. Apart from that, asking questions also allows tired nurses to remember things they forgot to include in their report.

If you are on the receiving end, make sure to listen carefully. Avoid asking questions until the person is done. If you interrupt the nurse in the middle of a handover, she’ll likely get distracted.

Final Thoughts

Nurses, in general, aren’t taught how to do handovers correctly. Most of us have learned it by watching others.

If you are new to doing handovers, make sure to pay attention to how others do it in your institution. It’s easy to feel nervous when giving reports to veteran nurses but you have to stay calm and focused. Remember, the patient’s care will depend on the information you’ll relay to the receiving nurse.

As a veteran, it’s easy to feel at ease during handovers, particularly since you’ve done it most of your career. However, as a nurse, it helps to stay updated with the latest trend. Try to look for ways to make handovers more effective and efficient on your part.

Apart from that, don’t rush the receiving nurse, particularly if she’s new to your area. Rushing the process can cause vital pieces of information to be left out.