The structured communication tool SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation) improves communication in neonatology

Meriel Raymond, Michael C Harrison


Background. Effective communication, co-operation and teamwork have been identified as key determinants of patient safety. SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation) is a communication tool recommended by the World Health Organization and the UK National Health Service. SBAR is a structured method for communicating critical information that requires immediate attention and action, contributing to effective escalation of management and increased patient safety. To our knowledge, this is the first study showing use of SBAR in South Africa (SA).

Objective. To determine the effectiveness of adopting the SBAR communication tool in an acute clinical setting in SA.

Methods. In the first phase of this study, neonatal nurses and doctors at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, were gathered in a focus group and given a questionnaire asking about communication in the neonatal department. Neonatal nurses and doctors were then trained to use SBAR.

Results. A telephone audit demonstrated an increase in SBAR use by registrars from 29% to 70% when calling consultants for help. After training, the majority of staff agreed that SBAR had helped with communication, confidence, and quality of patient care. There was qualitative evidence that SBAR led to greater promptness in care of acutely ill patients.

Conclusions. Adopting SBAR was associated with perceived improvement in communication between professionals and in the quality and safety of patient care. It is suggested that this simple tool be introduced to many other hospitals in SA.

Authors' affiliations

Meriel Raymond, Division of Neonatal Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

Michael C Harrison, Division of Neonatal Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

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Communication skills; Patient safety

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(12):850-852. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.8684

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-07-18
Date published: 2014-11-19

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