Have you ever left after a shift and realized you forgot to relay some important piece of information to the next nurse? It can be tough to organize and prioritize your communication in a timely manner. A structured format or even the use of a template can be helpful; however experience definitely plays a role here too. Like anything else, giving report to an oncoming shift or during any patient hand-off takes practice. A common acronym used to ensure an organized and thorough report is SBAR: Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation.

When I first heard of this method, it seemed too short for me. How could 4 letters/headings be used to convey all the information about my patients after a 12-hour shift? As I learned a little more about SBAR, I realized it was not much different from the method of report I had been using for years.

S= Situation. Include admitting diagnosis, history of present illness, events of hospitalization (Tip: for patients with long hospitalizations, a timeline of events is helpful.) Also, what is the patient’s current situation? Include review of vital signs and events from the past 24 hours.

B= Background. Past medical history, past surgical history, family history, psychosocial history.

A= Assessment. Review of systems. My preferred method of organization has always been neurologic, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, hematologic/immunologic, and endocrine systems; skin; laboratory values and diagnostic findings; medications; psychosocial issues.

R= Recommendation.  Include anything that needs ongoing or further attention.

What method of report works best for you?