SBAR and Other Effective Communication Tools in Nursing

Effective Communication Tools in Nursing
Effective Communication Tools in Nursing

Everyone has different tasks in healthcare, but you all need to communicate clearly to succeed.  

Especially in nursing, communication is even more important – it can impact people’s health! This blog will explore some communication tools nurses use, like SBAR, to ensure everyone caring for a patient is on the same page.  

Even if you’re not planning to be a nurse, understanding these tools and how effective communication tools in nursing can help you appreciate the teamwork involved in healthcare!

Why is Effective Communication Important in Nursing?

Why is Effective Communication Important in Nursing?
Nurse talking to a patient

Effective communication in nursing is using clear and accurate communication to ensure that patients receive the right treatments, medications, and care, reducing the risk of errors or mistakes that could harm the patient. 

Good communication allows nurses to quickly identify and address any changes in a patient’s condition, which can be crucial for providing appropriate care.

Nurses also work as part of a healthcare team, including doctors, therapists, and other staff. Effective communication ensures that the entire team is on the same page and that everyone understands the patient’s needs and care plan. 

Additionally, in Collateral Communication, patients and their families want to feel heard, understood, and confident in their care. When nurses communicate clearly, listen actively, and show empathy, it helps build trust and improves the overall patient experience. 

What is the SBAR Nurse Communication Tool

SBAR Nurse Communication Tool
SBAR Nurse Communication Tool

The SBAR Nurse Communication Tool is a way for nurses to effectively communicate important information about a patient’s condition to doctors or other healthcare providers.

SBAR stands for

  • Situation – This is a brief statement of the problem or concern you want to address.
  • Background – This is the relevant information about the patient, such as their medical history or current medications.
  • Assessment – This is your clinical observations and evaluation of the patient’s condition.
  • Recommendation – This is what you think should be done to address the situation, such 

as ordering a test or changing a treatment.

Here’s an example of how a nurse might use SBAR to communicate with a doctor:

  • Situation: Mr. Smith’s oxygen levels have dropped to 88% on room air.
  • Background: Mr. Smith is a 65-year-old male with a history of COPD. He was admitted 2 days ago for pneumonia.
  • Assessment: He is experiencing increased shortness of breath and appears to be in respiratory distress.
  • Recommendation: I recommend starting supplemental oxygen and considering increasing his antibiotic dose.

By using the SBAR format, the nurse can provide the doctor with a clear, concise, and organized summary of the patient’s condition and their recommendation for the next steps.

Other Effective Communication Tools in Nursing

Aside from SBAR and other interpersonal nursing skills, here are some helpful tools that can help make communication effective in healthcare.

BATHE Protocol

The BATHE Protocol is another effective communication tool used in nursing to help build rapport and better understand a patient’s emotional state. BATHE stands for:

B – Background
A – Affect
T – Trouble
H – Handling
E – Empathy

Here’s how a nurse might use the BATHE protocol in a conversation with a patient:

  • Background: “Mrs. Jones, I see you’ve been dealing with this chronic pain for several months now. Can you tell me a bit more about what’s been going on?”
  • Affect: “I can imagine this has been very difficult for you to manage. How are you feeling about the situation?”
  • Trouble: “What aspects of the pain and treatment have been the most troubling or frustrating for you?”
  • Handling: “How have you been coping with and handling the pain on a day-to-day basis?”
  • Empathy: “I understand this must be taking a real toll. I want you to know I’m here to support you through this.”

By following the BATHE protocol, the nurse is able to:

  • Gather important background information about the patient’s situation.
  • Assess the patient’s emotional state and feelings about their condition.
  • Identify the specific troubles or challenges the patient is facing.
  • Understand how the patient is managing and coping with the issues.
  • Express empathy and let the patient know they are being heard and supported.


The Ticket-to-Ride communication tool for effective communication tool between healthcare professionals and used to ensure important patient information is accurately communicated when a patient is being transferred or discharged.

The key elements of the Ticket-to-Ride tool include:

  • Patient Identification: The patient’s full name, date of birth, and medical record number.
  • Code Status: The patient’s current code status (e.g. full code, do not resuscitate).
  • Allergies: Any known allergies the patient has.
  • Medications: A list of the patient’s current medications, including dosages.
  • Treatment Summary: A brief overview of the patient’s current medical condition, treatments provided, and any pending test results.
  • Plan of Care: Recommendations for the next steps in the patient’s care, such as follow-up appointments or home health services.
  • Nurse/Provider Contact Information: The names and contact information of the nurses and doctors involved in the patient’s care.

Here’s an example of how a Ticket-to-Ride form might be filled out for a patient being discharged from the hospital to a nursing home:

Patient: Jane Doe, DOB: 01/01/1945, MRN: 12345678

Code Status: Full Code

Allergies: Penicillin


  • Lisinopril 10mg PO daily
  • Metformin 500mg PO BID
  • Aspirin 81mg PO daily

Treatment Summary:

Jane was admitted 3 days ago for uncontrolled diabetes and dehydration. She was treated with IV fluids and insulin, and her blood sugar levels are now stable.

Plan of Care:

Refer to nursing home for continued monitoring and diabetes management. Follow up with primary care provider in 1 week.

Nurse Contact: Mary Smith, RN – 555-123-4567

Provider Contact: Dr. John Jones – 555-987-6543

By providing this detailed information on the Ticket-to-Ride form, the nurses at the receiving facility will have a clear understanding of the patient’s current status and ongoing care needs, allowing for a smooth transition and continuity of care.

Healthcare Communication Tools
Healthcare Communication Tools

Healthcare Communication Tools

Using healthcare communication tools, such as the HosTalky app, is an effective way for nurses to facilitate clear and efficient communication in healthcare settings. These tools provide a centralized platform that streamlines various communication needs, ultimately enhancing patient care and improving interprofessional collaboration in healthcare.

HosTalky’s features, such as its secure chat feature, CareID identification system, organized reminders and notes, and team-wide announcement capabilities, address common pain points in healthcare communication.

By consolidating these essential tools into a single, dependable app, nurses can eliminate the chaos of juggling multiple channels and ensure critical information is properly shared and documented. 

This promotes better care coordination, improved patient safety, and a more rewarding nursing experience overall.

Hourly Rounding

Hourly Rounding is a communication tool and nursing practice that involves nurses regularly checking in on patients at set intervals, typically once per hour. The purpose of hourly rounding is to address patient needs proactively and prevent potential issues before they arise.

Here’s how Hourly Rounding works:

  1. The nurse enters the patient’s room at least once per hour, following a standardized checklist or protocol.
  2. During the rounding, the nurse will:
  • Ask the patient if they need anything, such as help to the bathroom, pain medication, or a position change.
  • Assess the patient’s comfort level, pain levels, and any other concerns.
  • Ensure the patient has everything they need within reach, like the call light, water, tissues, etc.
  • Perform any necessary clinical checks, like vital signs or dressing changes.
  • Document the findings from the rounding.
  1. The nurse will communicate any issues or changes in the patient’s condition to the appropriate members of the healthcare team.

Here’s an example of how Hourly Rounding might work for a patient recovering from surgery:

At 10 am, the nurse enters Mrs. Smith’s room and goes through the Hourly Rounding protocol:

  • Asks Mrs. Smith if she needs to use the restroom or if she is experiencing any pain. Mrs. Smith says her pain is well-controlled, but she would like help getting to the bathroom.
  • Assists Mrs. Smith to the bathroom and ensures she has everything she needs within reach when she returns to bed.
  • Check Mrs. Smith’s vital signs and dressing on her surgical incision, noting they appear normal.
  • Documents the findings in Mrs. Smith’s electronic health record.
  • Informs the charge nurse that Mrs. Smith requires assistance to the bathroom but is otherwise stable.

By conducting these regular Hourly Rounding check-ins, the nurse is able to proactively address Mrs. Smith’s needs, monitor her recovery, and communicate any relevant information to the rest of the care team. Rounding

Patient Teach-Back

The Patient Teach-Back communication tool in nursing is a way for nurses to ensure patients and their caregivers fully understand the healthcare information they have been provided.

The key steps in the Patient Teach-Back process are:

  • The nurse explains a concept, procedure, or discharge instructions to the patient/caregiver.
  • The nurse then asks the patient/caregiver to “teach-back” the information in their own words. This allows the nurse to assess the patient’s level of understanding.
  • If the patient/caregiver is unable to accurately explain the information, the nurse re-explains it using different wording or visual aids.
  • The process is repeated until the nurse is confident the patient/caregiver fully understands.

Here’s an example of how a nurse might use the Teach-Back method when discharging a patient from the hospital:

Nurse: Okay Mrs. Jones, before you leave the hospital today, I want to make sure you understand the instructions for taking your new medication, Metformin, for your diabetes.

Can you please tell me in your own words how you will be taking this medication?

Mrs. Jones: Yes, the Metformin is a pill I’m supposed to take twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, with food.

Nurse: Great, that’s correct. And do you know why it’s important to take this medication?

Mrs. Jones: It will help control my blood sugar levels.

Nurse: Exactly. Can you also tell me what side effects to watch out for?

Mrs. Jones: Hmm, I’m not sure about the side effects. Can you remind me of those?

Nurse: Okay, no problem. The most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you experience any of those, make sure to let your doctor know.

Mrs. Jones: Okay, I understand – nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the side effects I need to watch for.

Nurse: Wonderful, you’ve got it! Let me know if you have any other questions before you leave today.

In the example, the nurse can ensure Mrs. Jones fully comprehends the important information about her new medication before she leaves the hospital. This helps prevent medication errors or misunderstandings that could impact her care.

Wrapping Up

Effective communication is key for nurses to provide great patient care. Tools like SBAR, Hourly Rounding, HosTalky, and Patient Teach-Back help nurses communicate clearly and organizedly. These communication methods improve patient safety and outcomes and make nursing a more positive and rewarding job.

When nurses have the right communication tools and processes in place, they can spend more time caring for their patients and less time worrying about mixing up important information.

As healthcare changes, being a great communicator will surely become even more important for nurses

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