Change-of-Shift Nursing Handoff Interruptions: Implications for Evidence-Based Practice

Lori M. Rhudy, Maren R. Johnson, Catherine A. Krecke, Danielle S. Keigley, Sarah J. Schnell, Pamela M. Maxson, Sharon M. McGill, Karen T. Warfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The importance of change-of-shift handoffs in maintaining patient safety has been well demonstrated. Change-of-shift handoff is an important source of data used in surveillance, a nursing intervention aimed at identifying and preventing complications. Surveillance requires the nurse to acquire, process, and synthesize information (cues) encountered during patient care. Interruptions in handoff have been observed but there is a gap in the evidence concerning how interruptions during nurse-to-nurse handoff impact the change-of-shift handoff process. Aims: To describe registered nurses’ perceptions of interruptions experienced during change-of-shift handoff at the bedside in critical care units and analyze the number, type, and source of interruptions during change-of-shift handoff at the bedside. Methods: An exploratory descriptive design was used. One hundred nurse-to-nurse handoffs were observed, and four focus groups were conducted. Observation data were analyzed with descriptive statistics and quantitative content analysis. Focus group data were analyzed with qualitative content analysis. Results and Findings: Of the 1,196 interruptions observed, 800 occurred in the communication between the two nurses involved in the handoff. Over 80% (645) of these interruptions were from the nurse receiving handoff and included questions or clarification of information received. About half of the nurses reported that interruptions occurred during handoff. Focus group findings revealed that whether or not something is an interruption is determined by the individual nurse’s appraisal of value added to their knowledge of the patient and/or plan of care at the time of handoff. Linking Evidence to Action: Interruptions during handoff are evaluated as useful or disruptive based on the value to the nurse at the time. Strict structuring or mandating of handoff elements may limit nurses’ ability to communicate information deemed most relevant to the care of a specific unique patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-370
Number of pages9
JournalWorldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • critical care
  • focus group
  • handoff
  • interruptions
  • nursing
  • observation
  • shift reports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Change-of-Shift Nursing Handoff Interruptions: Implications for Evidence-Based Practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this