Evidence for Nursing Handoff Effectiveness Lacking

Minimal research has been done to identify best practices

MONDAY, April 19 (HealthDay News) -- Although the negative consequences of inadequate nursing handoffs are well understood, very little research has been done to identify best practices, according to a systematic review published in the April issue of the American Journal of Nursing.

Lee Ann Riesenberg, R.N., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a systematic review of English-language articles published between Jan. 1, 1987, and Aug. 4, 2008, that focused on nursing handoffs (handoffs of patient care from one nurse to another) in the United States. They reviewed 2,649 titles for possible inclusion and obtained 460 articles for further review. Ninety-five of the articles met inclusion criteria.

The researchers found that very little research has been done to identify best handoff practices. Their content analysis identified barriers to effective handoffs in eight major categories, and strategies for effective handoffs in seven major categories. Only 20 articles involved research on handoffs, and only half of these included measures of handoff effectiveness. The research studies' quality assessment scores ranged from two to 12 on a one to 16 scale. Eighty-five percent of the studies on nursing handoffs received scores at or below eight.

"There is a remarkable consistency in the anecdotally suggested strategies; but there is a paucity of evidence to support them. We call for high-quality studies of handoff outcomes that focus on systems factors, human performance, and the effectiveness of structured protocols and interventions," the authors write.

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