Information concerning ICU patients’ families in the handover— The clinicians’ «game of whispers»: A qualitative study
Background - Handover refers to the transfer of information and care responsibility between clinicians. An effective and precise handover are of great importance to ensure quality of care. Although improvements in handovers have received increasing attention in recent decades, little is known about how information about ICU patients’ family members is included in handovers.
Design - A qualitative study using Charmaz’ constructivist grounded theory approach.
Methods - Data were gathered through participant observation, focus groups, dyadic and individual interviews of physicians and nurses from four ICUs in different Norwegian hospitals. The data consist of 270 observation hours, seven focus groups, three dyadic interviews and two individual interviews. Field notes and transcribed interview data were analysed using constructivist grounded theory approach. COREQ checklist was applied as reporting guideline for this study.
Findings - “A game of whispers” emerged as the core category, representing missing information about the patient's family during the handover. Together with three subcategories: “documentation dilemmas,” “being updated” and “talking together,” the core category explains how transfer of family‐related information between clinicians is continually processed and resolved.
Conclusions - This study indicates challenges related to appropriate and high‐quality handover concerning ICU patients´ families. Oral handovers are essential in terms of clinicians’ need to elaborate on written information and update each other. However, oral transmission involves a high risk of information loss during the handover. Written documentation about the family seems to be inadequate and poorly structured.
Relevance to clinical practice - The study findings suggest a need for increased awareness in practice and research of the importance of transferring appropriate and reliable information about patients’ families between ICU clinicians. User‐friendly handover tools and patient records that include information on patients’ family members should be developed.