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Inconsistency in handoff procedures may endanger patients

In a recent blog post, we discussed how lack of sleep may affect the performance of doctors, especially those still undergoing residency training. Handoff procedures were briefly touched upon in that post, pertaining to how doctors with long shifts avoid frequently handing off their responsibilities to others. At Bendall & Mednick, we are aware of the ways in which handoff procedures may impact your safety. Whether in the hospital, being treated by a specialist or seeing your family doctor, the handoff is a crucial point of communication for medical professionals in Schenectady and elsewhere.

The handoff is what occurs when your medical staff changes shifts and new personnel take over your care. This could happen when your nurses and doctors at the hospital go home or when you are transferred to a different facility or from your regular doctor to a specialist. During a handoff, the new staff taking over your care should be given the latest updates on your condition and other important information. However, the New York Times points out that handoff procedures are not standardized across medical centers.

With medical staff that is frequently rushed, fatigued and dealing with many other clients, critical information might be left off your chart or entered incorrectly during the handoff. You can imagine how easily something as important as the time and dosage of your last medication might be omitted from your chart. If you had recently taken medication but nurses on the new shift were not notified, you could be overdosed. This error is one example of many that could go wrong during an improper handoff.

You might help your staff avoid critical mistakes by always being aware of procedures and ensuring they are correctly noted on your chart – or by enlisting a trusted person to do this for you while you are recovering. Our medical malpractice page may inform you further about common hospital errors.

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