The communication of patient information through use of handoff ensures continuity of care and patient safety. A study of hand-off reports between pre-hospital personnel and staff in the emergency department revealed a lack of complete or formal information dialogue. Nurses play a vital role in the process of communication and information exchange through the use of handoff despite minimal guidelines for that exchange in current nursing practice. The pre-hospital hand-off informational exchange impacts patient safety as well as the planning and implementation of nursing care based upon that information.

The sample used was from a convenience sampling of patients arriving in the Emergency Department via ambulance over all days, shifts, and from all ambulance services that deliver patients who chose to participate in the study. The sample size was to observe hand offs occurring over a one month period of time equally distributed over all shifts and days of the week.
The data was analyzed using a percentage distribution to classify the data related to hand off report content. This data was then divided and compared according to the categories of information transferred through utilization of the protocol and analyzed for frequency of occurrence.

There are indications for nursing educational needs in relation to the importance of handoff documentation and how that documentation of the handoff report contents impacts nursing practice. There may also be implications for the standard format for handoff reporting and technology solutions to improve handoff content.

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