Better communication in nursing clinical handover at St Vincent’s Hospitals

Better communication in nursing clinical handover at St Vincent’s Hospitals

About the project

From 2018 to 2022, Diana Slade and the ICH team have collaborated with St Vincent’s Hospital Group to undertake a translational research and training across nine wards in three hospitals to improve nursing handover practice.

Clinical handover is a pivotal, high-risk communicative event in hospital practice. Studies investigating critical incidents, mortality, risk and patient harm in hospitals have highlighted ineffective communication as a major contributing factor. With over 52 million clinical handovers performed nationally each year, each represents an opportunity for miscommunication and a subsequent risk to patient safety.

Comprehensive data was collected, including observations, interviews and audio/video recordings of actual nursing handovers. Based on analysis of this data, the ICH team developed a targeted intervention consisting of extensive recommendations to improve ward handover practices and communication in nursing clinical handover training.

Anna Thornton, Director of Nursing at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, calls the project a “game-changer” with significant improvements to nursing handover practice, patient safety and quality of care. As a result of the project, there was a 52% reduction in inpatient falls, a 22% decrease in the number of newly acquired pressure injuries and a 21% reduction in the number of reported medication errors (over the 5-month post-intervention period compared to the average of the same months over the previous three years).

Following the success of the pilot, the ICH team received funding from the Geoff and Helen Handbury Foundation and St Vincent's Curran Foundation to roll out the project across several other wards in St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, St Joseph’s Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

This project is ongoing, with data being collected and tailored recommendations continuing to be made at sites across these three hospitals, and is scheduled to conclude in December 2022.


  • Chien, L. J., Slade, D., Dahm, M. R., Brady, B., Roberts, E., Goncharov, L., Taylor, J., Eggins, S., & Thornton, A. (2022). Improving patient-centred care through a tailored intervention addressing nursing clinical handover communication in its organizational and cultural context. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 00, 1–18.
  • Dahm, M. R., Slade, D., Brady, B., Goncharov, L., & Chien, L. (2022). Tracing interpersonal discursive features in Australian nursing bedside handovers: Approachability features, patient engagement and insights for ESP training and working with internationally trained nurses. English for Specific Purposes, 66, 17–32.

Project contact

Professor Diana Slade

Updated:  14 June 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications