Healthcare News & Insights

Bedside shift change reports can improve patient care

Thorough conversations during nursing shift changes are important for a smooth transition. But a little-known side effect is they can be alienating to patients if done outside their hospital rooms. To avoid this, some hospitals are getting more personal with these discussions by bringing them to patients’ bedsides. 
sb10069454j-001In various studies, bedside shift reports have had positive effects on patient care. Not only do they improve communication among members of the care team, it also helps patients and their families better understand the treatment process, according to an article from the Wall Street Journal.


They’re free to ask questions of the new nurse coming on board, and they feel more secure knowing that critical details about the patient have been effectively passed along.

Safety & satisfaction

There are other benefits, too. Patient falls are less likely if nurses discuss shift changes at the bedside, and it’s easier for staff to catch major safety issues such as medication mistakes, problems with catheters or even incompatible blood transfusions.

And if you’re looking for a way to boost patient satisfaction, bedside reports have also been shown to improve scores. Patients have a better impression of their hospital experience overall, and they indicate that communication with their nurses is better.

Privacy concerns

Some nurses and hospital staff are wary of bedside discussions, mainly due to fears the talks will violate HIPAA laws. If a patient isn’t in a private room, others could accidentally hear confidential health details. However, these concerns can be addressed by telling patients their conversations may be overheard so they can choose to keep certain information private.

Patients can choose to opt out of bedside shift change conversations entirely – for privacy concerns or if they simply want to have an uninterrupted night’s sleep. But per the WSJ, most patients say the benefits outweigh any potential drawbacks.

Efficient bedside shift reports

Bedside reports don’t take much longer than traditional ones, including making notes in patient charts or having discussions at the nursing station.

The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle just transitioned to using bedside nursing shift reports this past summer, according to the WSJ article. Nurses there typically hand off three to six patients a shift during a half-hour period. They only spend between three to seven minutes with each one. Patients with fewer issues have shorter handoffs, and that leaves nurses with more time to discuss more complicated patients.

Sometimes patients and their families may raise multiple questions during the shift report. In those situations, nurses have the option of telling patients they’ll resume the conversation after all shift reports have been completed.

Hospitals considering switching to bedside shift reports should train their nurses in all aspects of the new reporting method, including:

  • efficiently communicating information to the nurse coming on staff
  • knowing what to say to patients (including those with differing levels of health literacy), and
  • engaging patients and their families to be active participants in the conversation.

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