How To Use the SBAR Method in Nursing

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Dec 27, 2023
Two young female nurses consult with eachother in the hospital

Imagine you’re working in a busy hospital and must communicate vital information about a client’s rapidly changing condition to a health care provider (HCP) who is juggling multiple cases.

How do you convey this information clearly and quickly?

As a nurse, one of the most effective ways to communicate critical information is using the SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) method. SBAR isn’t just a fancy acronym but a powerful communication tool that can improve your interactions with HCPs and ultimately contribute to safer client outcomes.

Whether you’re a first-year nursing student or about to embark on your final practical placement, this article takes the guesswork out of SBAR. We’ll walk you through the basics and provide strategies for maximizing its benefits.

The more you practice using SBAR, the more confident and effective you’ll become. Before long, you’ll be able to apply the model with ease in any setting.

What is SBAR?

Did you know the U.S. Navy first coined the term “SBAR” to streamline communication during submarine duty handoff?

The success of the SBAR method in military operations led to its adaption in health care settings. It’s a structured, standardized way of communicating information about a client’s condition, needs, or problems.

It helps you exchange information quickly and accurately.

You can use SBAR for different types of communication, like:

  • Nurse to HCP: When you need to report a change in a client’s status, request a prescription or consult with an HCP.
  • Nurse to nurse: When you need to hand over a client to another nurse during a shift change, transfer, or discharge.

The importance of using SBAR as a nurse

SBAR is an essential communication tool for nurses and other health care professionals.

It ensures everyone involved in the client’s care is on the same page and provides the following benefits:

  • Enhances efficiency by allowing HCPs to assess the situation quickly and accurately so they can provide the best care.
  • Improves safety by reducing medication errors and preventing confusion about diagnosis or treatment plans.
  • Increases HCP satisfaction by making it easier to understand the client’s condition.
  • Reduces adverse events by mitigating information gaps between HCPs and nurses.

SBAR nursing in action

Here’s a breakdown of the four steps required when using the SBAR tool to communicate with an HCP.

1. Situation

Provide a brief overview of the client’s status and any changes observed since the last assessment.

Include the client’s name, age, and care unit or room number.

Example: “I’m calling about John Smith, a 65-year-old male in room 12. He has shortness of breath and chest pain.”

2. Background

Summarize any relevant information about the client that could help inform the HCP’s decision-making process.

This information may include:

  • Admission date and time
  • Allergies, IV fluids running, medications
  • Client’s code status
  • Consults
  • Diagnosis
  • Medical history (including dangerous infections or pre-existing conditions)
  • Relevant recent events
  • Test results
  • Vital signs

Example: “He has a history of coronary artery disease and hypertension. He’s on aspirin, metoprolol, and nitroglycerin. His blood pressure is 180/100, pulse is 110, oxygen saturation is 90%, and ECG shows ST-segment elevation.”

3. Assessment

Provide an analysis of the situation based on your observations and understanding of the client’s condition.

Example: “I think he’s having an acute myocardial infarction.”

4. Recommendation

Suggest a course of action for the HCP to consider.

This might involve:

  • Initiating a new treatment plan
  • Prescribing specific tests
  • Suggesting a change in medication

Example: “I recommend you see him immediately. He needs thrombolytic therapy and cardiac catheterization.”

SBAR tips and best practices for nursing students

Here are some tips to remember when using SBAR.

  • Speak clearly and confidently: Make sure the HCP understands everything you’re saying.
  • Share concise and relevant information: Briefly describe the client’s condition and avoid adding unnecessary information that could distract from the main point.
  • Listen carefully to feedback: Adjust your approach if needed.
  • Communicate client status changes: This helps prevent medical errors from incomplete assessments.
  • Be prepared to answer questions: Provide any additional context the HCP may need.
  • Follow up on recommendations: Follow the HCP’s instructions, continue monitoring the client, and document changes in their condition or treatment plan.

Improve your SBAR communication skills with SimpleNursing

In nursing, effective communication can mean the difference between life and death.

SBAR provides a straightforward yet comprehensive framework that facilitates the exchange of timely and accurate information, which helps ensure the best possible outcomes for clients.

At SimpleNursing, we’re dedicated to providing the tools and knowledge you need to excel in your nursing career. Mastering techniques like SBAR is just the beginning.

Join us and access a wealth of resources through our comprehensive platform, including practice questions and interactive learning tools. We’ll help you stay up to date with the latest developments in health care so you can be at your best when it matters most.

Sign up for a free trial and start learning today.

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