Standardizing postoperative PICU handovers improves handover metrics and patient outcomes

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2015 Mar;16(3):256-63. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000000343.


Objectives: To improve handover communication and patient outcomes for postoperative admissions to a multidisciplinary PICU.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting: Multidisciplinary PICU in a university hospital.

Subjects: The multidisciplinary team responsible for postoperative PICU admissions and patient care, including attending, fellow, house staff physicians, and nurses from pediatric critical care medicine, surgery, and anesthesia.

Interventions: An online survey distributed to PICU, surgery, and anesthesia providers identified existing barriers and challenges to effective postoperative PICU handovers and guided the formation of a standard protocol. Handovers for postoperative PICU admissions were then directly observed for 3 months pre- and postimplementation of the protocol, with data collected on communication, metrics, and patient outcomes. Observations and data collection, as well as the online provider survey, were repeated approximately 1 year after handover protocol implementation.

Measurements and main results: Survey data demonstrated increases in provider ratings of handover attendance, communication, and quality after implementation of the handover protocol (p < 0.001). Surgical report errors were eliminated (p = 0.03), and the prevalence of provider attendance for the handover duration increased from 39.3% to 68.2% (p = 0.01). Following protocol implementation, fewer patients experienced antibiotic delays (34.5% to 13.9%; p = 0.03) or required hemodynamic or respiratory interventions within the first 6 hours of PICU admission (24.6% to 9.1%; p = 0.04). Patients received their first dose of analgesia (62.3 to 17.4 min; p = 0.01) and had their admission laboratory studies sent (42.3 to 32.9 min; p = 0.04) more quickly. Data collected at 12 months postimplementation demonstrated sustained reductions in analgesia timing, antibiotic delays, and handover barriers.

Conclusions: Postoperative communication and patient outcomes can be improved and sustained over time with implementation of a standardized handover protocol.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Analgesia / methods
  • Analgesia / statistics & numerical data
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Female
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric / standards*
  • Male
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Care Team / standards*
  • Patient Care Team / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Handoff / standards*
  • Patient Handoff / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Transfer / standards*
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data
  • Postoperative Period
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents