We explored the existing patient handover practices between emergency care practitioners and healthcare professionals in the emergency department.
In the emergency department, patient handover between emergency care practitioner’s and healthcare professionals is a complex process involving multiple functions, such as the transfer of information, responsibility and accountability from one person to another.
We used a qualitative study design. Emergency care practitioners and healthcare professionals were identified using purposive and convenience sampling data. Data were collected through unstructured participant observation. We conducted 20 observation sessions, varying between 15 and 20 min. The data were analysed using a creative hermeneutic approach.
The ‘how’ or manner of patient handover observed between emergency care practitioners and health professionals was perceived as important. A diagnosis of disrespectful behaviour was made which could negatively influence patient handover and ultimately patient outcome. Disrespectful behaviour stemmed from the two signs that supported the diagnosis: task-orientated behaviour and the use of indigenous language.
Involving the emergency care practitioners and healthcare professionals in observing and analysing the existing patient handover practices in the ED raised their awareness of the current workplace culture. Transforming behaviour from disrespectful to respectful should include greeting one another, listening attentively to the patient handover and include emergency care practitioners, patients and their significant other in the handover process that should be conducted in a commonly understood language. Emergency care practitioners and healthcare professionals should recognise that during patient handover ‘how’ is as important as ‘what’.