Achieving the 'perfect handoff' in patient transfers: building teamwork and trust

J Nurs Manag. 2012 Jul;20(5):592-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2012.01400.x. Epub 2012 Jun 19.


Aims: To use the philosophy and methodology of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in the investigation of unit to unit transfers to determine aspects which are working well and should be incorporated into standard practice.

Background: Handoffs can result in threats to patient safety and an atmosphere of distrust and blaming among staff can be engendered. As the majority of handoffs go well, an alternative is to build on successful handoffs.

Evaluation: The AI methodology was used to discover what was currently working well in unit to unit transfers. The data from semi-structured interviews that were conducted with staff, patients, and family informed structural process improvements.

Key issues: Themes extracted from the interviews focused on the situational variables necessary for the perfect transfer, the mode and content of transfer-related communication, and important factors in communication with the patient and family.

Conclusions: This project was successful in demonstrating the usefulness of AI as both a quality improvement methodology and a strategy to build trust among key stakeholders.

Implications for nursing management: Giving staff members the opportunity to contribute positively to process improvements and share their ideas for innovation has the potential to highlight expertise and everyday accomplishments enhancing morale and reducing conflict.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Checklist
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Manitoba
  • Models, Organizational
  • Models, Psychological
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Evaluation Research*
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Patient Transfer*
  • Program Development
  • Trust*