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Implementing SBAR Across a Large Multihospital Health System

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Background: Communication problems among health care personnel during critical clinical situations can jeopar dize patient safety. SBAR, a structured-communication technique, has been adapted from aviation and the military as a strategy for clear communication based on a statement of the situation, background, assessment, and recommendations related to a critical issue. Nurses' use of SBAR and physician perception of communication quality after SBAR implementation was assessed at a 13-hospital health care system.

Methods: Baylor Health Care System initiated a campaign to implement SBAR and train staff in SBAR techniques across its hospitals. Nurse surveys and physician audits were conducted.

Findings: Of 156 nurses interviewed, 152 (97.4%) had been educated about SBAR, and 91 (58.3%) used SBAR for critical communication. Of 84 nurses whose proficiency with SBAR was assessed, 72.6% demonstrated good or high proficiency. Of the 155 physicians who responded to the physician survey, 121 (78.1%) said that the last report they received was adequate to make clinical decisions. Of the 27 who indicated that the last report was not adequate to make clinical decisions, 25 (92.6%) had not received the report in SBAR format.

Conclusions: SBAR was generally well understood. Challenges included inconsistent uptake across facilities, lack of physician education about SBAR, and a tendency to view SBAR as a document rather than a verbal technique. Future research will address the need for refresher education with nurses after initial SBAR education, the need for formal physician education about SBAR use, and the possibility of conducting annual competency validation of the utilization of SBAR. Research should also examine the effect of SBAR on quality of care and patient outcomes in controlled trials.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2012

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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