Why Nurses Should Change Shifts at Patients’ Bedside

It is a wide-spread practice across the world nurses in hospitals to change shifts in nurses’ room. They exchange information about the conditions of the patients they are in charge of. A new study revealed that this should be done in front of patients. There are two main benefits coming from the bedside handover – patients become active partners in their own care and medical errors occur much more rarely.

The lead author of the medical study Dr Lianne Jeffs says:

"The start and end of a nurse's shift are critical moments. Having handover take place at the bedside with patients is better for everyone, but especially for our patients. It means they have a voice, better understand their treatment and are engaged in their care."

When patients are not involved enough in their care, they feel helpless as though they have lost control over their life. To regain the feeling of control they need to be able to ask questions. Having the opportunity to clarify information with both nurses seems to be very efficient in terms of relieving a patient’s anxiety and improving their satisfaction.

The study was published in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality. It was based on qualitative interviews with 45 patients. Dr. Jeffs has been doing research on the necessary transitions across the health care system in the USA.

Such studies should be carried out in every country to assess the overall satisfaction of patients and to take measures for improving the quality of health care. It is known that patients who are more relaxed recover much faster than patients who are under a lot of stress. Any factor that contributes to a faster recovery is worth researching and applying into practice.

Ray Shaver who was a caregiver for his late wife, Queenie, for more than 16 years said:

"Patients feel more important when they're involved in their own care. And it's so much safer for the patient when everyone comes together in the same room."

Dr Jeffs also commented:

"Most patients felt safer, more satisfied and better informed of their care plan. But some long-term patients did not want to participate in the twice-daily routine because their conditions had not changed from day to day."

The author of the study points out that it is important to recognize and be sensitive to patients' preferences which can change over time and from patient to patient.

Nurses have reported making fewer mistakes when they change shifts at the bedside of patients. They are able to prioritize their tasks better and get a clearer view of patients’ situation when they receive information from the outgoing nurse in patients’ presence.

Piloted in 2011, nurses on every medical and surgical unit at St. Michael's Hospital now perform handover at their patient's bedside.

Author: Mariya Dim

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