Nursing handover within mental health rehabilitation: an exploratory study of practice and perception

Andrea McCloughen, Louise O'Brien, Donna Gillies, Caroline McSherry
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 2008, 17 (4): 287-95
Nursing handover is an established practice that involves an interchange of information between nurses to inform of the condition of patients. It is essential to nursing practice in terms of continuity and quality of patient care. However, there is a lack of agreement about the quality, content, and process of handover and, in particular, a lack of information specific to mental health contexts. This paper reports the results of exploratory research of the practice and beliefs about verbal nursing handover within an inpatient mental health rehabilitation setting. Qualitative data were obtained from audiotaped handovers and interviews with nurses and analysed using content analysis. Handovers were found to lack structure and content, be retrospective, problem-focused and inconsistent. The findings were fairly consistent with the literature and would likely be applicable across nursing settings; however, the need to appraise nursing handover in unique contexts was also revealed. The study raised questions about how nursing handover reflects the goals and philosophies of mental health rehabilitation and whether nursing handover is an activity fully integrated with the focus of mental health rehabilitation.

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