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If you ask any nurse why they went into nursing, their response will undoubtedly have a foundation of compassion. Whether it’s an anecdote about a family member, a childhood role model, or a personal experience, a career in nursing starts by caring.

And yet, in a modern health care system burdened by precarious political conditions, technology evolving at breakneck speed, and specialties becoming super-specialties, it’s easy to lose touch with sentiment.

The onus on nursing seems to be heavier than ever, and the workload seems to focus on skills and tasks rather than human connection. Within such a context, reminding a nurse (if you can catch him or her) that they need to give report to another unit may understandably yield a frustrated grunt.

Yet despite how inconvenient, time-consuming, and even unpleasant hand-off may seem, its purpose is not to frustrate the nurse but rather to serve the patient.

Remember SBAR? Have you heard that acronym since nursing school? Health care today is filled with endless acronyms and buzzwords. SBAR and others serve as simple solutions to the impossibly complex knowledge nursing requires. Likely to many nurses’ chagrin, SBAR is evolving, and even specializing, just like nursing; now there is SHAREDPEARLS, and IPASS, to name a few.

What does compassion have to do with giving report? If every nurse gave hand-off as if the patient was their loved one, it is likely that every scratch would be scrutinized, every medication change would be reviewed in minute detail, and personal details would be emphasized (e.g., “She hates when you call her Patty. Call her Trish.”).

Giving good report is not an advanced science, but a simple art that can be mastered with a few pointers rooted in the principle of quality care:

  • Write pertinent information down; do not go by memory.
  • Do not multitask while giving or receiving report.
  • Be thorough; don’t assume the other nurse “should” already know something.
  • Whether SBAR or not, use a simple guideline to be sure you have covered all your bases.

Caring nurses are thorough nurses. If the care that attracted a nurse to the field can inform every report they give (and every other task), nursing can become even more meaningful, efficient, and effective.

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Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR

Nancy Swezey received her BSN from Columbia University. She now practices in New York City in the operating room where she has worked as a staff nurse, and currently as a care coordinator specializing in head and neck surgery. Nancy is also pursuing her advanced practice degree at CUNY Hunter where she assists the faculty as a research assistant, focusing on nurse education and module development.

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