Once you’ve become an EMT, you will experience countless patient handovers. This is the time when you transfer a patient to another EMS provider or the receiving party. According to an EMS1 article by Rommie L. Duckworth, patient handovers are “the most dangerous point in a patient’s ED journey.” The World Health Organization also states that gaps in communication can cause “serious breakdowns in the continuity of care, inappropriate treatment, and potential harm to the patient.”
In this blog post, we’re going to look at EMS1’s list of recommendations for patient handovers. Following them could help you save a life…
10 Pieces of Advice to Help Save Lives
1. Look at Other Industries: “Effective handover processes have been studied by many industries where communications is mission-critical, including commercial aviation, nuclear facilities, the military and fire/rescue organizations. While the exact practices of how to overcome noise and other challenges will vary from industry to industry, EMS can learn a lot from the practices that other industries have successfully adopted.”
2. Make Communication a Priority: “Receiving providers are often so focused on the critical care needs of patients that they jump right in without paying attention to communication from the reporting providers. EMS providers must ensure and assure receiving providers that all lifesaving care will be continued while the reporting team leader gives the receiving team leader an efficient handover report.”
3. Share Your Mental Model: “To provide great patient care, an EMS provider must make sure that they share the same mental model of their patient’s situation with their team. If team members have a different understanding of what is going on, care won’t be coordinated and serious errors may occur.”
For example, the following questions should be asked:
- What is the context (stroke patient, multi-trauma, sepsis, etc.)?
- What got us to this point?
- Where are we right now?
- What is the priority?
- What is the very next thing that needs to happen?
4. Be Sure to Prioritize Information: “Priority information, such as ‘trauma alert’ and ‘BP 60 over 40,’ must be delivered first for the receiving team to develop a mental model and understand the situation. Supplementary information, such as ‘patient has had a hysterectomy,’ still matters, but the receiving team shouldn’t be bombarded with it up front.”
5. Streamline the Communication Process: “The goal is for the right information to be in front of the right people at the right time, even across multiple patient handovers. Modern communication systems, including prehospital notification software, allow information to be captured early and easily, and efficiently delivered to all key patient care providers along the continuum of care.”
6. Always Make Eye Contact: “When delivering a face-to-face patient handover report, it’s important for the reporting and receiving team leaders to make direct eye contact. An EMS provider trying to give a report while moving a patient over to the hospital bed, or a receiving nurse ‘listening’ while looking up the patient’s hospital medical record, will cause information to be misunderstood or completely missed.”
7. Control What You Can: “While we may not always have as much control over the environment as we would like, it’s important to minimize distractions, interruptions and disruptors of communication. Simply taking a moment to close the door or turn down a radio can make the whole handover process more efficient and less error-prone.”
8. Provide a Report that is Structured and Consistent: “While SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) may be the most commonly used mnemonic in the United States, whichever one you choose to provide structure and standardization to your reports, ensure that it is understood and used by both reporting and receiving providers so that everyone is speaking the same language.”
9. Provide Additional Documentation: “Supplementary information can be critical to the ongoing care of the patient and should be complete and correct when handed over, but it should never overshadow the key points and priority information delivered upfront in the patient handover. This information can be provided verbally, in written form or electronically delivered.”
10. Turn Problems into Opportunities: “Fortunately, great patient handover practices can do more than just help us avoid errors—they also provide the opportunity for a new look at the patient’s condition. The Department of Defense says that patient handovers present not only points of vulnerability, but also potential times to correct errors and gain a fresh clinical perspective.”
A Brief Overview of Unitek EMT
If you’re interested in EMS, you might want to consider EMT training! At Unitek EMT, we strive to prepare aspiring Emergency Medical Technicians by providing them with an accelerated EMT program. Experts in the EMS field educate our students through a combination of traditional learning, simulation training, and workshop-style classes.
Our 14-Day Boot Camp1 is currently completed at a facility in Tempe, Arizona. Students can also attend American Heart Association (AHA) CPR courses or a stellar EMT Refresher course. Additionally, a BLS course is offered at the Tempe facility as well.
Many aspiring firefighters also seek EMT certification to increase their employment opportunities. In fact, some employers will only hire firefighters with EMT training. To learn more about this preference, check out one of our firefighter blog posts here.
For more information about the program, please contact us toll free at 888-790-1458.
Change your future with Unitek EMT!
1 Our 14-Day EMT Program in AZ is taught in an intensive “boot camp” style, to simulate the fast pace of work expected on the job as an EMT.