Pi Phi Chapter

An Exploration of Nursing Communication Competence During Handoff Report

Nursing Research on the Green

2017 Abstract

Megan Smith, MSN, RN, CNE – University of Nevada Las Vegas and Viterbo University

  • Background:  Nurse handoff reporting is a crucial time for communication in the patient care setting as it is a frequent event with a high volume of information exchange. During handoff report, patient information is exchanged between senders and receivers transferring responsibility for care with the main purpose of providing accurate and timely information about the patient. The Joint Commission reports that shortcomings related to communication can be directly related to an increase in patient care errors, with approximately 80% of medical errors resulting from miscommunication during handoff processes. 
  • Significance:  Numerous intervention studies focus on standardizing information, developing physical locations and environments for ideal handoffs, and creating tools for structured information exchange between different types of healthcare professionals. Despite the implementation of a variety of interventions, errors related to handoff communication remain high. In addition, though communication quality and competence is a key element of effective work processes in complex settings such as acute care hospitals, there is a paucity of research focused on nurses' communication competence related to the quality of handoff communications. 
  • Purpose/objective:  The purpose of this descriptive correlational study is to explore nurses' communication competence related to the quality of handoff reporting in the acute care setting. 
  • Methods/project:   Pilot Study-Using a dyadic perspective, 48 nursing handoffs on general medical / surgical units will be examined from the view of the incoming and outgoing nurse. Using the Nurse Communication Competence Scale, each nurse will rate themselves and the other nurse involved in the handoff event on information giving, receiving, verifying and socio-emotional communication behaviors. Nurses will also rate the quality of the handoff. Using case-matching for each handoff event, data comparing the ratings on the Nurse Communication Competence Scale, handoff quality, and selected demographics will be analyzed with the aim of comparing the perspectives of the incoming and outgoing nurses for the same event. Data collection will occur over a three-month period after obtaining informed consent and Institutional Review Board approval with data analysis to follow.
  • Results:  Study in Progress
  • Clinical implications:  This study will build on previous research that explored nurses' communication competence from the limited perspective of nurses recalling previously experienced handoff events. In addition, this study will apply a more integrated view of handoff communications by examining possible differences among the perceptions between the incoming and outgoing nurses beyond information exchange. From a practical perspective, having a clearer picture of communication behaviors as it relates to the quality of the handoff report can lead to better training for both professional nurses and help educators teach communication skills that lend to competence. The study findings may provide a foundation for handoff processes and training that could prevent patient errors through improving nurse communication competency. Nurses who have the necessary skills for communication competence may better meet their colleagues' expectations of a quality handoff and result in fewer communication-related errors in patient care. 

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