You’re only as good as your handover part II: Giving a good handover

I’ve given some pretty terrible handovers in my time.

I’ve heard some pretty bad ones to. But I’ve also seen and heard some absolutely awesome ones.

It makes a world of difference for everyone, and can gain you a lot of respect as a practitioner if you do it right.

So here are some tips for how to nail this vital part of communication.

1: Be ready. Don’t be standing there shuffling your ECG papers and notes trying to work out what to say mid-sentence. Take 30 seconds as you park or on the way in to run through what you’re going to say and have everything there with you. Write it down if you need to. You look a lot better reading from paper than you do floundering on the floor.

2: Have as system. We use the IMISTAMBO pnemonic. It matches up really well with many hospitals’ ISOBAR system.

3: Wait until everyone is present, and everyone is ready. If it’s a routine one on one handover, let your colleague grab their notes and set themselves up to. It’s polite and makes their job easier. If it’s to a whole team of people stand at the end of the bed and make sure all people including the consultant are paying attention.

4: Use those communication skills. Eye contact, loud clear voice, if you have a place to put ECG’s, notes, trends, etc place them there so people can read whilst they listen.

5: Ask for questions, confirm everyone understands what you’ve said and if needed head over to the allocated scribe as there is likely no way they would have kept up with you.

6: Keep yourself available for at least 10 minutes in case someone needs to find you. Be somewhere visible or predictable while you write up case notes so that if there is further information needed, time is wasted.

7: Be humble, be flexible, be honest. Didn’t have time to do much treatment?  Gave a drug that didn’t work? That’s ok! Just tell them! If you acted in the patient’s best interest, then there’s no shame in that. Odds are it was the right thing to do. If you admit a mistake it shows maturity and means it can be fixed. If you lie about it, sooner or a later one of those lies harm a patient and will come back to bite you.

Unfortunately there’s no hard and fast rule with handover, but follow these tips and it’s likely things will be much easier!

What’s your advice?


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