Are you providing an effective handover at the end of your shift?

Good communication is the cornerstone of a well-run organisation and is the most important factor for achieving positive consumer and staff outcomes. If you work in residential care, or in a setting where you share the responsibility of care with other support workers, you’ll be aware of how important an effective handover is.

On the other hand, an ineffective handover process contributes to poor care support, including delays and/or errors in access and delivery of essential care services and supports to vulnerable consumers. Additionally, ineffective handovers can leave your team feeling overwhelmed, lacking direction and impacting morale, which further places the wellbeing of consumers at risk.

Coworkers sitting at a table with papers, talking to each other. A caption reads: Quality care relies heavily on effective communication.

A well organised and effective handover process can make all the difference to supporting continuity of care to consumers. This is true of both staff working in a residential setting or when supporting people in shared care arrangements in the community.

An effective handover process can also include that which occurs on an infrequent basis, such as when a regular support worker goes on leave and needs to handover to their replacement.

An effective handover provides similar benefits to completing well-written notes.

  • Provides continuity of care for consumers between shifts and staff, which helps the consumer and their family to feel more confident in the team and the organisation.
  • Helps staff to communicate issues and concerns that are ongoing, so the next shift or person can address these in a timely manner.
  • Provides a written record of consumer issues and progress.
  • Promotes person-centred care.
  • Saves staff time and energy, which in turn helps to prevent stress and minimise mistakes.
  • Helps staff feel more prepared and confident in their role and in the care they provide to consumers.
  • Promotes a culture of teamwork and support in your care setting.

This is why it’s important for handover to be as comprehensive and clear as possible, so staff on the next shift can hit the ground running.

Tips for conducting an effective handover

Working in the care industry means that there is no time to waste, and while we want a comprehensive handover, they should be concise and timely. Handovers should contain sufficient information that allows the incoming shift to understand any priorities and issues that require their attention.

This is where it is helpful to have an effective information sharing system in place, which could be a template completed by hand or electronically during the shift. Whatever system is used, staff need to understand how to complete this effectively so that key information is not overlooked.

Implementing a standard procedure for handover, that meets the needs of your organisation, is important. Staff need to understand that this procedure should be strictly followed and that handovers are not the time for social chit chat. Staff participating in a handover meeting need to be focussed on the task at hand.

Generally, the person conducting the handover has the floor and other participants should wait until the handover leader has completed the delivery of information about a consumer before asking questions. This will ensure that information is not accidentally missed due to interruptions. The leader should allow time for questions at the end of each consumer handover note, as relevant.

Use simple language that each person in the team understands. Avoid jargon, and if you need to use a technical term ensure that each person in the group understands what that means, to avoid any confusion.

It’s also important to hold handover meetings in an area that provides privacy, minimises interruptions, is away from curious onlookers and where personal information about individual consumers won’t be overheard.

What information should be included in a handover?

Each organisation will, more than likely, have its own standard handover procedure and paperwork. As a general guide, the handover information contained in a residential setting may include:

  • the identity of the consumer – staff need to know who you are talking about. Make sure to clearly define the relevant person, especially where there are two people in the facility with similar names;
  • the location of the consumer – note if they have moved rooms for any reason or where new consumers are located;
  • relevant background and/or personal information – especially where a new consumer or respite client has entered the facility. Another example is when a staff member is returning after a significant time away, such as four week’s leave, and new consumers have arrived;
  • current health issues or concerns – for example are they in quarantine due to an influenza outbreak;
  • behavioural issues that arose during the shift, highlighting interventions;
  • any time sensitive interventions that need completing and/or other interventions that have been implemented for a consumer;
  • current and/or anticipated needs of the consumer during the next shift and recommendations for the shift staff;
  • anticipated visits or appointments relevant to specific consumers.

In summary, the quality of your organisation's care and support services rely heavily upon effective internal communication processes. An effective handover of consumer information not only improves positive consumer outcomes, but also contributes to an excellent workplace culture.

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