5 Tips For an Effective Bedside Shift Report

5 Min Read Published July 26, 2021
5 Tips For an Effective Bedside Shift Report

Bedside shift reports are the essential transmission of patient information between incoming and outgoing nurses in a patient care setting. This nursing communication provides for the continuity of safe and effective medical care and prevents medical errors.

In recent years, many hospitals have attempted to standardize bedside shift reports by making reports in front of the patient mandatory and implementing shift report sheets, also known by many nurses as nursing brain sheets.

However, nurses still communicate differently during nurse handoffs. 

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What makes a great bedside report?

This is where Alice from the Ask Nurse Alice Podcast comes in. As a nurse for over 20 years, Alice has seen and heard just about every type of bedside report in existence - some great, some mediocre, and some that flat-out need major improvement.

In this week’s podcast episode, Nurse Alice talks all about how to master the bedside shift report. She dives into:

  • Where should nurses give bedside reports?
  • What do you do when the bedside report you are getting doesn’t match what you observe in your patient?
  • What should you expect from a bedside shift report?
  • What information is essential for you to provide an oncoming nurse when you provide a bedside nurse report?
  • How giving a great bedside report sets the tone for the shift.

This content used under license from "Ask Nurse Alice."

5 Best Practices For an Effective Bedside Shift Report

1. Shift Reports Should be Done at the Bedside 

Nurse Alice has observed that many nurses give shift reports in break rooms, the nurse’s station, or somewhere else where the patient can hear what is said. She states that there are occasional reasons why that should be done (like a patient hasn’t been told yet about a new diagnosis or abnormal test result that we can’t provide further information on yet). 

But the majority of shift reporting should be done in front of the patient, Alice says. If you need to share something with the nurse that isn’t appropriate for the patient to hear, you can share that information privately after the report is complete. 

She reasons that even though the patient is unconscious and can’t hear the report, it still gives the oncoming nurse a chance to observe the patient in real-time during the report. 

Alice also emphasizes this is essential so that you can “see, hear, smell what is going on with the patient concurrently” during a bedside shift report. If there are inconsistencies, the oncoming nurse can communicate that.

In addition, even the most well-intentioned nurses forget things. It doesn’t mean we aren’t doing our best. But a report at the bedside helps us all remember details better.

2. A Great Bedside Report Sets the Tone for the Shift

Alice emphasizes that nurses need quality baseline information to provide safe, effective, quality care throughout the shift. 

Alice also talks a lot about how bedside reports must be verbal and face-to-face (not via paper or recorder) to provide continuity of care. She reasons that this doesn’t allow for interaction, Q & A, or the patient’s input. After all, if the patient doesn't know their care plan or what the goals are during their stay, how can they actively participate? Bedside reports are all about safe and effective patient care through clear communication.

3. Be Mindful of Patient Privacy

Alice talks about how it is essential to make sure you know who is present in the room and ensure patient privacy before giving a bedside report. Just because family is present does not mean they are privy to their medical information. Clarify to the patient that it is OK to speak about their medical care (without putting them on the spot).

4. Benefits of a Great Shift Report

Alice reports there is a lot of data suggesting that nurses have increased satisfaction when they get a good shift report. Other advantages include:

  • Patient safety
  • Improved communication
  • More efficient teamwork
  • Better nursing accountability
  • Better shift report accuracy
  • Enhanced patient care
  • Improved documentation
  • Improved discharge and transition of care

Alice talks about how nurses need to be present and attentive while giving reports, using “cheat sheets,” the computer, and direct patient observation to prevent miscommunication or missed information.

5. Ask The Oncoming Nurse “What Other Information Can I Provide For You?

Alice says you can also ask, “Is there anything on your to-do list that you didn’t get to” or “What’s on your wish list for this patient?’

Alice talks about how if a nurse says that they feel they are dumping a lot on her, she will reassure them that they are doing a great job and take it from here. From there, she does her best throughout the day. What she cannot complete, she communicates to her oncoming nurse.

In other words, Alice says our attitudes need to be less about blaming others and more about how we can positively affect our fellow nurses. Teamwork is an effective way to maintain an excellent standard of patient care. 

Sarah Jividen
RN, BSN
Sarah Jividen
Nurse.org Contributor

Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a trained neuro/trauma and emergency room nurse turned freelance healthcare writer/editor. As a journalism major, she combined her love for writing with her passion for high-level patient care. Sarah is the creator of Health Writing Solutions, LLC, specializing in writing about healthcare topics, including health journalism, education, and evidence-based health and wellness trends. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. 

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