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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 12-20

Handoff communication: Hallmark of nurses

Junior Lecturer, College of Nursing, CMC, Vellore, India

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Communication is a vital element in the health care setup. National Patient Safety Goals 2018 proposed by The Joint Commission highlights the importance of communication among the caregivers. Breakdown in communication was the leading cause of sentinel events reported to the Joint Commission in the United States of America between 1995 and 2006. Majority of the errors can be prevented if the ‘Handoff or ‘handing over’ communication is up to the standard. A handoff is a transfer and acceptance of patient care responsibility achieved through effective communication. It is a realtime process of passing patient specific information from one caregiver to another or from one team of caregivers to another for the purpose of ensuring the continuity and safety of the patient’s care. Handoff process includes exchanging of information, transferring the responsibility of care and preparing the team to take over, and ensuring the continuity of care. Handoff need not be only during the change of shift, it can be even during stepping down or stepping up of a patient, transferring for any procedures, transferring between units, or facilities and discharge. The potential barriers in implementing the effective handoff communication includes resistance of caregivers to change, time constraints, cost constraints, low health literacy, poor staffing, cultural and language differences, failed leadership, and lack of information technology infrastructure. Nursing handoff can be enhanced by incorporating technology.

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