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How can hospitals prevent errors during shift changes?

Shift changes are busy times in hospitals. They can create opportunities for dangers and miscommunications about your care. Hospitals are working on making shift changes safer by taking action to minimize the chance of errors at this crucial time.
  • Hospitals are focusing more and more on better communication between team members and between teams. They recommend that these and other conversations as done the same way every time, that tools designed to support that process are used correctly, and that the use of short cuts like abbreviations should not be used. Such measures help decrease misunderstandings.
  • The departing team is likely to be quite tired. Hospitals are trying to minimize overlong shifts to improve the accuracy of shift change, and to create awareness about the negative effect that exhaustion has on communication.
  • There is currently lot of support for nursing change of shift to happen at the bedside. This enables you or your family member to hear what the plan of care is and to ask questions of either team about what you hear.
  • Conversations outside your room also take place at shift changes that raise key points related to safety of the unit during the upcoming shift. You might not hear these—but they are happening and are important. Concerns related to all the patients on the unit are raised so the oncoming team is aware of them.
  • Hospitals are using technology to document what they need to share and know during and after shift change.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.