SBAR- Improved communication for safer patient care
Patient safety is crucial for the delivery of effective, high-quality healthcare1 and is defined by the World Alliance for Patient Safety of WHO as ‘the reduction of risk of unnecessary harm associated with healthcare to an acceptable minimum’.
One communication tool that’s utilized in the clinical setting is the situation, background, assessment, and recommendation (SBAR) technique. The situation represents the problem that’s being reported to the physician; background is the brief history of the patient that can help identify the cause of the problem; assessment refers to the nurse’s observations, including symptoms and vital signs; and recommendation encompasses the nurse’s requests of the physician or care plan suggestions.
Closing the gap between narrative and descriptive approach
Nurses often take more of a narrative and descriptive approach to explain a situation, while physicians usually want to hear only main aspects of a situation. The SBAR technique closes the gap between these two approaches allowing communicators to understand each other better. It includes a summary of the patient’s current medical status, recent changes in condition, potential changes to watch for, resuscitation status, recent laboratory values, allergies, problem list, and a to-do list for the incoming nurse.
It is specially used for communication between a physician and a nurse when there is a change in patient condition or between a nurse and nurse during patients shift to a new department or during shift change. It is a technique used to deliver quality patient care.
The receiver knows what to expect and it helps to ensure the giver of information is not interrupted by the receiver with questions that will be answered later on in the conversation. SBAR can be used in any setting but can be particularly effective in reducing the barrier to effective communication across different disciplines and between different levels of staff. When staff use the tool in a clinical setting, they make a recommendation that ensures the reason for the communication is clear.
This is particularly important in situations where staff may be uncomfortable about making a recommendation, e.g. those who are inexperienced or who need to communicate with someone who is more senior than them. The use of SBAR provides clarity to communication and prevents the unreliable process of ‘hinting and hoping’ that the other person understands.
More awareness and structure in own communication
Errors in communication continue to be a contributing factor in adverse patient events in healthcare systems.The systemic nature of the problem of miscommunication between healthcare providers supports the need for a standardized communication method. The SBAR tool is a simple, effective method for communication that operates across disciplines and is well-received by healthcare professionals. Use of the SBAR tool thus should be implemented systematically to improve healthcare communication and create a safer patient care environment.