8 10.5 Interprofessional communication and SBAR tool

Working in healthcare requires teamwork. Clients/patients receive care from a variety of health care providers. You will encounter situations where a client condition changes, an emergency arises, a family member is  upset, or a variety of other situations that need to be communicated to others. You may need to communicate to a colleague, supervisor, or other health care provider (nurse, doctor, paramedic, social worker, physiotherapist, etc). It is important that your communication is complete and concise in order to best serve your client/patient. Errors in communication in healthcare are common, as we are all human. The problem with errors in communication in healthcare is that the client/patient can suffer negative consequences. Some examples are: not advising the new caregiver about a medication or food allergy, neglecting to advise of a low blood pressure, advising that a dressing looks “OK” when there is blood or discharge on it. In any of the aforementioned examples the misinformation could cause harm for the client/patient.

A tool that has been developed and now in common use in healthcare is SBAR communication. SBAR is an acronym meaning Situation, Background, Assessment and Request. The categories of SBAR provide you a structure from which to craft a clear and concise message about the situation that you are communicating about.

“The Joint Commission, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Institute for Health Care Improvement (IHI), and World Health Organization (WHO) recognize SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) as an effective communication tool for patients’ handoff. SBAR is a reliable and validated communication tool which has shown a reduction in adverse events in a hospital setting, improvement in communication among health care providers, and promotion of patient safety.”(Shahid & Thomas, 2018, ¶ 1)


Shahid, S., Thomas, S. Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation (SBAR) Communication Tool for Handoff in Health Care – A Narrative Review. Saf Health 4, 7 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40886-018-0073-1


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Communication at Work Copyright © 2022 by Julie Rivers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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