Communication and Patient Safety : Transfer of information between healthcare personnel in anaesthetic clinics

Abstract: Communication errors are frequent during the perioperative period and cause clinical incidents and adverse events. The overall aim of the thesis was to study communication – the transfer of information, especially the postoperative handover – between healthcare personnel in an anaesthetic clinic and the effects of using the communication tool SBAR (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation) from a patient safety perspective.The thesis is based on studies using a correlational (Paper I), quasi-experimental (Paper II and III) and descriptive (Paper IV) design. Data were collected using digitally recorded and structured observations of handovers, anaesthetic records, questionnaires, incident reports and focus group interviews.The results from baseline data showed that lack of structure and long duration of the verbal postoperative handover decreased how much the receiver of postoperative handover remembered; the item most likely not to be remembered by the receiver was anaesthetic drugs. The variation in remembered information showed that there were room for improvement (Paper I). Implementing the communication tool SBAR increased memorized information among receivers following postoperative handover. Interruptions were frequent during postoperative handover, which negatively affected memorized information (Paper III). Furthermore, after implementation of SBAR, the personnel’s perception of communication between professionals and the safety climate improved, and the proportion of incident reports related to communication errors decreased in the intervention group (Paper II). The results of the focus group interviews revealed that the nurse anaesthetists, anaesthesiologists and post-anaesthesia care unit nurses had somewhat different focuses and views of the postoperative handover, but all professional groups were uncertain about having all information needed to secure the quality of postoperative care (Paper IV).The findings indicate that using a predictable structure during postoperative handover may improve the information memorized by the receiver, perception of communication between professionals and perception of safety climate. Incidents related to communication errors may also decrease. Long duration of the handover and interruptions may negatively affect the information memorized by receiver. To ensure high quality and safe care, there is a need to achieve a shared understanding across professionals of their work in its entirety.  

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