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  1. Carelock, Janis RN, MSN, CS, CCRN
  2. Innerarity, Sheri RN, PhD, FNP, CS


Critical incidents can be defined at sentinel events, critical patient care issues, or any patient event outside the normal parameters of care. Nurses are central to maintaining the standard of care for patients in these situations. Miscommunication, including inadequate communication and illegible or incomplete documentation, forms a basis for many clinical and interpersonal problems in nursing practice. This practical article discusses expectations, both professional and legal, for avoiding and/or managing critical incidents. Suggestions for assessment parameters to report are included in table format, which the nurse can 'clip and use' as a reminder of data to have prepared before calling and/or presenting the problem. Steps are proposed for a logical, organized plan to help the nurse communicate more effectively. Recommendations for essentials of documentation regarding the verbal interaction and orders received are also presented.