How many times have you been the patient and been handed off from one shift to the next? And how often does that happen in a slightly overheard conversation between one nurse and the next or one doctor to the next? There never seems to be a formal system of it and it always seems to be rushed. It is a key place where misunderstandings over a patient's care can occur which result in medical errors.
I have learned things about my care from hearing the nurse tell the next nurse that my gall bladder surgery did result in some fairly significant internal bruising during the surgery. The nurse had previously told me that it wasn't that bad and should clear up in a day or two. I also learned that during my knee surgery I had become agitated during the surgery for an unknown reason and should be watched in case I was having a problem with the anesthesia. During a hospitalization I learned that I was doing well but my pain levels were running a little high (I already could tell them that).
Little rushed conversations in the corner or on the side of a busy hallway while updating a patient's file are not in the best interest of the patient. Especially if the nurse tells the next nurse about several patients without time for note taking - can you say confusion?
Children's Hospital in Boston has come up with a team approach where the full team participates. This has cut medical errors in half. Maybe I should be a kid again and go there for my next procedure? Or I hope that other hospitals follow suit.