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Using SBAR

Snapshot: This document reviews the meaning, purpose and use of the acronym known as “SBAR,” which can facilitate clinical communication and reduce error.

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What Is SBAR? Why Should I Care About SBAR? How Does SBAR Work?

What Is SBAR?

  • SBAR is an acronym that stands for “situation, background, assessment, recommendation.”
  • SBAR provides a framework for effective, standardized communication among medical professionals.
  • SBAR can be used in a variety of clinical situations, including during telephone conversations, patient hand-offs, and patient transfers.

Why Should I Care About SBAR?

  • The goal of SBAR is to create a shared set of expectations between senders and receivers of information in healthcare settings to foster a culture of patient safety.
  • SBAR improves communication among medical professionals, and can reduce avoidable errors that stem from incomplete or ineffective communication.
  • Originally developed by physicians at Kaiser Permanente, SBAR has been widely adopted at many health systems throughout the U.S. and internationally, and is increasingly becoming the communication standard for medical professionals in the United States.
  • As a Registered Nurse, it is vital that you understand SBAR and use it to communicate with your fellow nurses and other medical professionals.

How Does SBAR Work?

  • To use SBAR, medical professionals should proceed in a sequential format – starting with the patient’s “situation,” then proceeding to the patient’s “background” and “assessment,” and concluding with the medical professionals “recommendations” for the patient.
  • The individual listening (the so-called ‘receiver’) should generally wait until the speaker (the so-called ‘sender’) has finished with the SBAR rubric before discussing the patient’s medical status or plans for patient care. In this way, the ‘receiver’ can obtain as complete an accurate a ‘picture’ of the patient being discussed, and the ‘sender’ can be confidant that she or he has communicated the most pertinent information.
  • The rubric below may help clarify the type of information to be included in SBAR communication.
Situationthe headline/snapshot Background/recent and pertinent information
  • Admitting diagnosis
  • Chief complaint
  • Admitting surgery/procedure

 

  • Pertinent past medical history
  • Recent procedures and tests
  • Course of hospital stay
  • Allergies
  • Code status
Assessment/the patient right now Recommendation(s)/possible next step(s)
  • Head to toe assessments
  • Vital signs
  • Intake & output
  • Lab tests/results
  • Tests/procedures
  • PRN/stat meds given
  • Significant changes from baseline
  • Plans for the patient
  • Unresolved problems
  • Upcoming tests/procedures
  • Items to follow up on
  • Before you use SBAR, you may find it helpful to review or have knowledge of the following:
  • Reviewed the patient’s chart for the appropriate physician or other provider to call
  • Know the patient’s admitting diagnosis and date of admission
  • Reviewed the most recent progress notes/MD notes and nurses notes
  • Patient’s chart in hand
  • List of current medications/allergies/IV fluids, and labs
  • Most recent vitals signs
  • Code status
  • If reporting lab results – date and time of test and results of previous tests
  • Note: It’s usually acceptable to place an MD or other provider on hold briefly if you need to gather information pertinent to SBAR; unless the clinical situation is emergent, you’re better off communicating accurate information with a slight delay then not communicating the information at all.