An investigation into the functions of nurses' communication at the inter-shift handover

J Nurs Manag. 1999 Jan;7(1):29-36. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2834.1999.00095.x.


Aims: This study set out to investigate the functions of nurses' communication at the inter-shift handover.

Background: The inter-shift handover should facilitate continuity in care by transferring patient information between shifts. However, nurses may also use this time for team building.

Methods: An observational study was conducted during six inter-shift handovers occurring on one ward in a general hospital in the UK. The data was transcribed and a thematic analysis applied.

Findings: The main themes related to the transfer of patient information and team building, the strongest theme being team building. Nurses were found to communicate goals and values relating to nursing practice so facilitating cohesiveness of the nursing team.

Conclusions: The nursing ritual of inter-shift handover serves the purpose of enhancing a shared value system amongst nurses. It should therefore not be regarded as an outdated means of communication.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Models, Nursing
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Process
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Patient Care Planning*