The University of Manitoba’s Diana Clarke is among a group of researchers working with medical personnel at the Health Sciences Centre to investigate how they can best handoff patient information during transfers from one unit to another.
During these exchanges, there is always a possibility that crucial information will get lost or be miscommunicated. Poor handoffs can jeopardize patient safety and create an atmosphere of distrust and blame among nurses. Clarke, who has headed a team of clinical practice nurses, wants to reduce these risks. She is an associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing, research director of the Manitoba Centre for Nursing and Health Research, and scholar in residence at Health Science Centre.
“The smooth, efficient, and complete patient transfers between units contribute to improvements in safety and patient satisfaction through reducing the possibility of error but also through reducing conflict and improving working relationships among staff,” states the findings, which were recently published in the Journal of Nursing Management.
Their approach was to explore not what goes wrong but rather build on what is already going right. Using Appreciative Inquiry, a philosophy and process that focuses on what is working well, the researchers interviewed general duty nurses, patient care managers, clinical resource nurses and patients who had recently been transferred, in addition to their family members. They also spoke with people whose work may be affected by the transfer, including doctors, social workers and rehabilitation specialists.
Their findings revealed suggestions from nurses on how to improve the handoff process. These include: allowing for more time to speak with the patient and their family; providing more time to compile relevant information and a quiet space in which to do so; facilitating face-to-face handoffs when possible or at least by phone as opposed to relying on a piece of paper; ensuring the opportunity to follow up later for clarification; and establishing some form of standardized reporting, like a transfer checklist.
The Appreciative Inquiry technique was developed in the mid 1980s on the premise that when people are engaged in a positive process—as opposed to a fault-finding one—they are more willing to share their experiences and take ownership in any action that results from the research. Clarke’s study was sponsored by the Paul T. Thorlakson Foundation Fund.
For more information contact Diana Clarke, Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, at 204-474-6771 or Diana.Clarke@ad.umanitoba.ca