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The ABC of handover: impact on shift handover in the emergency department


Introduction A study was undertaken to test the impact of a new tool for shift handover, ‘The ABC of Handover’, in the emergency department (ED). The impact on shift handover following implementation of this structured tool, the effect on clinical and organisational aspects of the subsequent shift and the opinions of users of this new tool are reported.

Methods A prospective observational before and after study was performed to explore the effect of implementing ‘The ABC of Handover’ on clinical and organisational practice using a questionnaire.

Results 41 handovers were observed before implementation of ‘The ABC of Handover’ and 42 were observed after. The new tool was successfully implemented and resulted in a change of practice which led to a significant increase in the operational issues mentioned at handover from a mean of 34% to a mean of 86% of essential items with the ABC method. Over the study period, middle-grade staff demonstrated improved situational awareness as they adopted proactive management of operational issues such as staffing or equipment shortages. All participants reported that ‘The ABC of Handover’ improved handover regardless of the seniority of the doctor giving it, and found the ABC method easy to learn.

Conclusions Successful implementation of ‘The ABC of Handover’ led to a change of practice in the ED. Improving handover resulted in better organisation of the shift and heightened awareness of potential patient safety issues. The ABC method provides a framework for organising the shift and preparing for events in the subsequent shift.

  • Emergency medicine
  • communication
  • healthcare quality
  • safety management
  • handover
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