Stories of change: the text analysis of handovers in an Italian psychiatric residential care home

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2017 May;24(4):232-242. doi: 10.1111/jpm.12377.


WHAT IS KNOWN ON THE SUBJECT?: There is a growing emphasis on communication as a result of the move towards the more inclusive approach associated with the community-based rehabilitation model. Therefore, more importance is attached to handovers. Besides ensuring transfer of information, handovers enhance group cohesion, socialize staff members to the practices of the service and capture its organizational culture. WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS TO EXISTING KNOWLEDGE?: While handovers are mainly used for information transfer and to manage the services' daily routine, this paper offers an insight on how handovers can be conceived as valuable instruments to document cultural and organizational change. Only a limited amount of studies has focused on handovers in mental healthcare settings, and most of them only consider the perspectives of psychiatric nurses, while embracing a broader perspective, this paper provides valuable insights into the perspectives of various service providers. The overcoming of the dichotomy deficit-based vs. recovery-oriented model is possible if professionals use handovers to reflect upon their practice and the ways in which their cultural models are affected by the environmental context. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE?: Handovers are valuable instruments to document organizational change. It would be important for psychiatric and rehabilitation facilities to keep track of the handover records over time as they may provide insightful information about cultural change and the transformations in the core values and beliefs held by professionals.

Abstract: Handovers assure a timely and correct information transfer while socializing workers to the service's culture; however, no study describes them as instruments to document organizational change and only a few have focused on psychiatric settings. Aim To investigate the change in the culture of an Italian psychiatric residential care home as perceived by its mental health workers (MHWs) over the course of two decades. Method Emotional text analysis (ETA) was used to analyse the MHWs' handovers completed from 1990 to 2011. Results The analysis generated four clusters and three main factors illustrating the change in the MHWs' representations of the residential care home and its occupants. The factors showed: (1) the shift from an individualistic, problem-focused view to an inclusive, community-based approach; (2) the presence of a descriptive as well as a specialized language; and (3) the presence of a double focus: on patients and professionals. Conclusions Handovers transcripts document the following changes: (1) a shift from a symptom-based to a recovery-oriented approach; (2) a modification of the MHWs values towards an holistic view of the patient; (3) a growing importance assigned to accountability, services integration and teamwork. The paper shows that handovers can be used diachronically to document organizational change.

Keywords: emotional text analysis; handovers; mental health workers; organizational change; psychiatric residential care; staff representations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Health Personnel* / standards
  • Humans
  • Medical Records* / standards
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Psychiatric Rehabilitation / standards
  • Qualitative Research
  • Residential Facilities
  • Residential Treatment / methods*
  • Residential Treatment / standards