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Five Ways a Nurse Practitioner Can Improve Patient Handoffs

Learn how to create better transitions in patient care and earn an MSN degree online.

During the course of a patient’s medical care, he or she will often be treated by several members of a healthcare team, and good communication between a doctor, a nurse practitioner, and other team members is key to great care.

Properly carrying out patient handoffs is one of the many important skills of a nurse, and learning how to execute the right handoff begins in nursing school. Find out several ways to improve patient handoffs and how online nursing schools can help you make the transition from BSN to MSN.

Five Ways a Nurse Practitioner Can Improve Patient Handoffs

Maintaining a Patient’s Care

As a registered nurse, you probably know that transferring responsibility of a patient from one caregiver to another is called a handoff. For example, a nurse ending a shift must communicate critical clinical information to the next nurse or physician. Hospital patients are experiencing more handoffs between clinicians and caregivers due to changes in today’s healthcare system. Each of these transitions can increase the risk of discontinuity of care or the passing on of inaccurate medical information.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare and Research, patient handoffs and signouts have been linked to adverse clinical events in settings such as emergency departments and intensive care units.1 In recent years, there has been an interest within the healthcare system to improve handoffs and reduce their associated adverse events.

Professionals in nursing careers can improve their patient handoffs in several ways, including:

  • Creating templates. A template creates a standardized snapshot of a hospital patient’s information, consolidating data and creating an easy-to-read record. Digitized templates can also save time for doctors and nurse practitioners.
  • Using a quiet designated space for handoffs. A hospital room with other patients can create distractions during the important transition between medical staff members’ shifts. If a hospital room is not private, using a designated space with a computer allows nurses to review digital medical records together, undisturbed.
  • Highlighting the sickest patients first. At the beginning of the handoff, identify the patients in the worst condition first. This ensures that incoming caregivers understand the seriousness of the condition and can ask questions that may affect care.
  • Getting face-to-face. Hospital personnel have busy schedules, and unfortunately nurses and physicians sometimes rely on notes or e-mails in patient handoffs. Setting aside the time to discuss patients in person creates opportunities for caregivers to communicate during handoffs. When face-to-face time isn’t an option, a phone call or video conference is the next best option.
  • Be specific. Patients are unique, and so are their needs. During handoffs, no detail is too small, so don’t be afraid to state what may seem obvious or implied. Ensure incoming healthcare providers are clear on a patient’s condition and what the continuity of care will look like.

Your Transition from BSN to MSN

Today’s online nursing schools are creating more options than ever for RNs looking to earn an MSN degree. If you’re a working nurse practitioner interested in advancing your nursing education, look no further than Walden University’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program.

Earning an MSN degree can advance your career and help you qualify for key positions in the medical field, such as nurse manager or health informatics roles. An education with Walden allows nurses to earn their MSN online without stepping away from their nursing careers. In fact, Walden graduates more MSN students than any other university,2 and 100% of its MSN teaching faculty is doctorally prepared.

With several degree specializations to choose from, Walden’s online MSN program stands out in preparing students for a range of nursing careers. If you’ve been researching online nursing schools, find out why Walden’s MSN degree program may be just what you’ve been looking for.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

2Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP code 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse). Includes 2016 preliminary data.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,