SBAR Communication in Nursing: Enhancing Patient Safety and Care Coordination


In the complex and fast-paced world of healthcare, effective communication is paramount to ensuring patient safety and delivering high-quality care. The SBAR communication method, which stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation, has emerged as a vital tool in nursing to standardize and streamline the exchange of critical information. This article delves into the meaning of SBAR, its importance in nursing, how to use it, and provides examples to illustrate its application.

What is SBAR Communication?

SBAR is a structured method for communicating information that is concise, clear, and focused. It originated in the U.S. Navy for use on nuclear submarines and was later adapted for healthcare to improve communication between healthcare providers. The SBAR format is divided into four key components:

  1. Situation: What is happening at the moment? This part includes a brief explanation of the current issue.
  2. Background: What is the context? This includes relevant background information that provides context to the situation.
  3. Assessment: What do you think is wrong? Here, the healthcare provider offers their professional assessment of the situation.
  4. Recommendation: What do you suggest should be done? This final part involves proposing an action plan or seeking specific advice.

The Importance of SBAR in Nursing

Effective communication in nursing is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Improves Patient Safety: Miscommunication can lead to errors, which can be detrimental to patient health. SBAR helps ensure that information is accurately conveyed, reducing the risk of misunderstandings.
  2. Enhances Team Collaboration: Nurses often work in multidisciplinary teams. SBAR fosters clear and consistent communication, which is essential for effective collaboration.
  3. Facilitates Efficient Decision-Making: By providing a clear framework for information exchange, SBAR helps healthcare providers make informed decisions quickly.
  4. Reduces Cognitive Load: Structured communication reduces the mental effort required to process information, making it easier for healthcare providers to understand and act upon the information.

How to Use SBAR in Nursing

Using SBAR effectively involves understanding each component and practicing the technique until it becomes second nature. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use SBAR:

  1. Situation: Start by stating your name, your role, the patient’s name, and the immediate problem. Be concise but specific.

              Example: “This is Nurse Smith on Ward 5. I’m calling about Mr. John Doe, who is experiencing acute shortness of breath.”

       2. Background: Provide relevant medical history, recent interventions, and any pertinent background information.

             Example: “Mr. Doe was admitted three days ago with pneumonia. He has a history of COPD and was last seen by Dr. Brown                    this morning. He has been receiving IV antibiotics and oxygen therapy.”
      3. Assessment: Share your clinical assessment of the situation, including vital signs and other observations.
             Example: “His respiratory rate is now 28 breaths per minute, oxygen saturation is 85% on 4 liters of oxygen, and he appears                   increasingly agitated.”
      4. Recommendation: Suggest a course of action or ask for specific guidance.
              Example: “I believe Mr. Doe’s condition is deteriorating. I recommend we increase his oxygen flow and consider a transfer to                    the ICU for closer monitoring. What are your thoughts?”

Tips for Using SBAR in Nursing

1. Be Prepared and Organized

  • Review Patient Information: Before making a call or reporting to another healthcare provider, ensure you have all the relevant patient information at hand. This includes medical history, current medications, recent test results, and any recent changes in the patient’s condition.
  • Use Notes: Write down key points to cover in each SBAR section to keep your communication clear and concise.

2. Practice Active Listening

  • Engage with the Receiver: Make sure the person you’re communicating with is ready to listen and can focus on the information you are about to provide.
  • Confirm Understanding: After delivering your SBAR report, ask if they have any questions or need further clarification to ensure they have understood the information correctly.

3. Be Clear and Concise

  • Avoid Jargon: Use simple and direct language, avoiding medical jargon or abbreviations that might not be understood by everyone.
  • Stick to Relevant Information: Focus on the most pertinent details and avoid including unnecessary information that might distract from the main message.

4. Use a Calm and Confident Tone

  • Stay Calm: Speak clearly and calmly, even in emergency situations. This helps convey the seriousness of the situation without causing unnecessary alarm.
  • Be Assertive: Clearly state your assessment and recommendation, showing confidence in your professional judgment.

5. Follow Up

  • Confirm Actions: After providing your recommendation, confirm what actions will be taken and by whom. This ensures accountability and follow-through.
  • Document the Interaction: Record the details of the SBAR communication in the patient’s medical record, including the time, the person you communicated with, and the agreed-upon actions.

6. Utilize Technology

  • Electronic Health Records (EHRs): Many healthcare systems have integrated SBAR templates into their EHRs. Utilize these templates to ensure all relevant information is included and standardized.
  • Checklists: Use SBAR checklists or prompts to guide you through the process, ensuring no critical information is missed.

7. Practice Regularly

  • Simulations and Role-Playing: Engage in regular simulations and role-playing exercises with your team to practice SBAR communication. This helps reinforce the technique and makes it more intuitive in real-life situations.
  • Feedback Sessions: After using SBAR, seek feedback from colleagues on how you can improve. Constructive feedback can help refine your communication skills.

Examples of Effective SBAR Communication

Example 1: Reporting a Change in Patient Condition

  • "Hi, this is Nurse Jane from the Medical Ward. I'm calling about Mr. Smith in room 204. He is feeling dizzy and has a high blood pressure reading."


  • "Mr. Smith was admitted for dehydration and has been on IV fluids for two days. He also has a history of hypertension."


  • "His blood pressure is 180/95, and he feels lightheaded when he stands up."


  • "I recommend we check his medications and consider adjusting his blood pressure treatment. Can you come and evaluate him?"

Example 2: Communicating About a Fall


  • "This is Nurse Alex from the surgical ward. I'm calling about Mrs. Brown in room 305 who just had a fall."


  • "Mrs. Brown had knee surgery yesterday and has been recovering well so far."


  • "She is awake and alert, but she is complaining of pain in her hip and leg. There is no visible bleeding, but she seems more uncomfortable."


  • "I think we should do an X-ray to rule out any fractures. Could you please come and assess her?"

Example 3: Medication Issue


  • "Hi, this is Nurse Emma from the Pediatric Unit. I'm calling about Sarah in room 12. She missed her morning dose of antibiotics."


  • "Sarah is being treated for a bacterial infection and has been on antibiotics for three days. She has been responding well to the treatment."


  • "She missed her 8 AM dose because she was asleep and no one woke her up for the medication."


  • "Should we give her the missed dose now, or wait until the next scheduled dose? Could you advise on the best course of action?"


SBAR communication is an essential and powerful tool in nursing that promotes patient safety, enhances team collaboration, and improves overall healthcare outcomes. By providing a clear and structured method for conveying critical information, SBAR ensures that important details are communicated accurately and efficiently. Nurses who master the SBAR technique, by being prepared, clear, concise, and practicing regularly, can significantly contribute to better patient care and a more cohesive healthcare environment. Embracing SBAR as a standard communication method helps foster a culture of safety and collaboration within healthcare teams.

Photo Source : Freepik


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