A nursing handover involves the transfer of professional responsibility and accountability for some or all aspects of care for a patient, or group of patients, to another nurse, for example, at the end of a nursing shift
Handover can also be delivered by one nurse to one other nurse or a group of nurses at the end of a shift. For the purpose of this learning resource, we will focus on the individual handover scenario that takes place around a patient’s bedside.
Many nursing students have found that delivering patient handover is often a source of anxiety, which may be for a variety of reasons.
As a student nurse, you may be asked by a registered nurse if you would like to deliver patient handover for a patient whom you may have cared for during your shift. Students often report they feel unprepared for this task as sometimes the fast-paced, demanding nature of the clinical environment means that your supervisor may not have explained how to conduct such a task.
Verbal and non-verbal communication
An effective handover constitutes excellent verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
Look at the tips and see examples…
Verbal communication skills:
- Speak clearly Be concise
- Try to avoid speaking too quickly
- Try to avoid using lots of abbreviations
Non-verbal communication skills:
- Maintain eye contact with the nurse that you are handing over to
- Ensure that you are in close proximity to the nurse that you are handing over to
- Demonstrate that you are actively listening to any questions that they may have throughout, which can be achieved by maintaining eye contact and head nodding, for example sit or stand on the same level as the nurse whom you are handing over to
While delivering your handover, try and remain calm and prepare in advance what you need to tell the nurse whom you are handing over to.
Your supervisor will be there to support you while you deliver your handover. If you are unsure about any aspect of the information that you are handing over, you can ask your supervisor to help you at any point.
The handover of patient care contains confidential information relating to the patient and their family. It is essential to ensure that handover is delivered in an appropriate environment in order to avoid a breach of confidentiality.
Both nursing students and registered nurses have a duty to ensure that they consistently keep personal patient details confidential. While upholding this duty is a legal requirement made by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (2015), maintaining confidentiality is important to ensure that the patient’s sense of dignity is supported.
While conducting patient handover, you may find that some patient details are more sensitive than others. For example, there may be safeguarding issues relating to the patient that are not appropriate to discuss at the nurses station or at the patient’s bedside where other patients and families are in close proximity. If this is the case, it is often more appropriate to discuss such information in an area that other patients and staff members cannot hear. You may decide to go into a closed, private room on the ward where only the nurse you are handing over to is able to hear this sensitive information.