Up Your Communication Game With "SBAR"

You'll hear buzz about using the "SBAR" tool for communication.

Think of SBAR as a framework to organize info...into a Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation.

Poor communication is at the root of most "sentinel" events...errors that lead to permanent or severe patient harm or death.

Use SBAR to ensure your verbal or written communication with colleagues and patients is accurate, clear, and efficient.

Situation. State a problem briefly...in about ten seconds or less.

Include identities when appropriate...your name and position, the patient's name and location, etc.

For example, when phoning a nurse about a missing antibiotic, say "This is pharmacy technician Alex. I'm calling about the missing tobramycin 500 mg dose for Jordan Smith in room 733."

Background. Provide other necessary and related information.

Choose critical words, such as "important," "must," or "now," to grab attention when needed.

For instance, if the missing tobramycin is an hour overdue, add "This is important because the dose was ordered STAT an hour ago."

Assessment. Say what you know...and offer an opinion on what you think is happening.

Include info such as "I tubed the dose five minutes after it was ordered. I made a delivery to your unit 20 minutes later. The dose wasn't in the med room then. I suspect it's still in the tube."

Recommendation. Request or recommend action to correct the problem.

Be clear about expectations to ensure no one drops the ball.

For instance, consider wording like "Please check if the tobramycin is at the tube station. I'll stay on hold. If you don't find it, I'll bring a replacement right away."

Do your homework before using SBAR...such as checking discharge or transfer lists or dispensing records. And be ready to answer questions or give additional info, if needed.

Get our CEs, Strategies for Effective Communication and Healthcare Professional Communication, for more ways to hone your skills and avoid crossed wires.

Key References

  • www.ihi.org/resources/Pages/Tools/SBARToolkit.aspx
  • Am J Pharm Educ 2016;80(9):157
  • Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2016;3(1):45-50.
Hospital Pharmacy Technician's Letter. Dec 2018, No. 341227

Exclusive Subscriber Content

  • Best in class medication learning
  • Concise recommendations
  • Hundreds of practical resources

Subscribe Now Learn More

Login to access this content.

Login