AORN Offers Surgical Patient 'Hand-Off' Tool Kit

DENVER -- The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) are joining forces to offer healthcare practitioners a new Web-based tool kit to guide critical patient "hand-offs" in perioperative settings (preoperative, intraoperative, post-anesthesia care units and procedural locations).

Communication lapses among patient-care providers are identified as the cause of more than two-thirds of the serious medical errors reported in recent years to The Joint Commission -- the principal accrediting body for U.S. hospitals.  Studies show at least half those communication breakdowns occurred as patients were handed off from one team of clinicians to another.  Such hand-offs occur during nursing shift changes, between primary and covering physicians, between anesthesiologists or perioperative RNs and postanesthesia care unit staff, and in many other instances when transport staff, radiologists, therapists or other healthcare personnel transfer the responsibility of patient care.

The AORN Patient Hand-Off Tool Kit provides the resources to guide perioperative professionals in developing safe hand-off communications among caregivers.  The tools will help streamline and standardize communications needed for effective patient care, including the patient's current and past condition, ongoing treatments, and possible changes or complications that should be monitored closely.

"This new tool kit will be an essential resource for promoting continuity in communications throughout healthcare organizations," said AORN president Mary Jo Steiert, RN, BSN, CNOR.  "Our collaboration with the Department of Defense Patient Safety Program has resulted in a perioperative tool kit that will positively affect patient outcomes."

The tool kit was created through a memorandum of agreement between AORN's Presidential Commission on Patient Safety and the DoD.  The agreement allowed AORN to expand guidance originally developed for TeamSTEPPS -- a joint initiative of the DoD and the federal Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- and apply it specifically to hand-off communications within perioperative units.

The AORN Patient Hand-Off Tool Kit includes evidence-based recommendations on patient hand-offs in the perioperative setting, sample checklists and forms, PowerPoint presentations on standardizing communication and information exchanges in perioperative practice and an annotated guide to additional resources.  The tool kit is available free of charge and can be downloaded exclusively from the AORN Web site at

Source: Association of periOperative Registered Nurses