Objectives: Emergency department (ED) shift handoffs are sources of potential medical error, delays in care, and medicolegal liabilities. Few handoff studies exist in the ED literature. We aimed to describe the implementation of a standardized checklist for improving situational awareness during physician handoffs in a pediatric ED.
Methods: This is a descriptive observational study in a large academic pediatric ED. Checklists were evaluated for rates of use, completion, and identification of potential safety events. We defined a complete checklist as 80% or more of items checked. A user perception survey was used. After 1 year, all checklist users (residents, fellows, faculty, and charge nurses with ED experience before and after checklist implementation) were anonymously surveyed to assess the checklist's usability, perceived contributions to Institute of Medicine quality domains, and situational awareness. The electronically administered survey used Likert frequency scales.
Results: Of 732 handoffs, 98% used the checklist, and 89% were complete. A mean of 1.7 potential safety events were identified per handoff. The most frequent potential safety events were identification of intensive care unit-level patients in the ED (48%), equipment problems (46%), staffing issues (21%), and intensive care unit-level patients in transport (16%). Eighty-one subjects (88%) responded to the survey. The users agreed that the checklist promoted better communication, safety, efficiency, effective care, and situational awareness.
Conclusions: The Physician Active Shift Signout in the Emergency Department briefing checklist was used often and at a high completion rate, frequently identifying potential safety events. The users found that it improved the quality of care and team communication. Future studies on outcomes and processes are needed.