Effective communication in hospitals: applying discourse analysis to improve clinical handover interactions. Clinical handover – the transfer between clinicians of responsibility and accountability for patients and their care – is a pivotal, high-risk communicative event in hospital practice. Studies focusing on critical incidents, mortality, risk and patient harm in hospitals have highlighted ineffective communication – including incomplete and unstructured clinical handovers – as a major contributing factor. In Australia, as internationally, Health Departments and hospital management have responded by introducing standardised handover communication protocols and more recently by mandating that the shift-to-shift handovers, wherever possible are conducted at the bedside and thereby involving the patient in discussions about their care.
This paper presents discourse analyses of spoken clinical handovers from a three-year study of handover communication in Australian public hospitals. The translational research involved staff interviews and ethnographic observations combined with detailed language analyses of audio and video recorded ward-to-ward and shift handovers to identify the features of effective and less effective handovers.
Diana Slade joined CASS at ANU in February 2017. Before coming to ANU she was Professor of Applied Linguistics and Director of the International Research Centre for Communication in Healthcare at UTS and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She has over 30 years of experience in researching, teaching and publishing in applied linguistics, linguistics and organizational communication. There are currently two major strands to Diana’s research: the analysis and description of spoken English and the application of these theoretical insights to the analysis of healthcare communication. Since 2011, she has focused on the critical role of communication in the provision of safe and effective healthcare.