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How to Write a Nursing Shift Report

Writing an effective nursing shift report is a crucial skill that every nursing student must master. Shift reports serve as a vital communication tool that ensures the seamless transition of patient care between nursing shifts, promoting continuity, patient safety, and efficient collaboration among healthcare professionals.

In the dynamic and fast-paced healthcare environment, accurate and comprehensive communication is essential for providing high-quality patient care. Nursing shift reports play a pivotal role in this process by conveying critical patient information, updating the incoming nurse on the patient’s current condition, treatments administered, and any significant events or changes that occurred during the previous shift.

Effective shift reports not only facilitate continuity of care but also contribute to patient safety by minimizing the risk of errors, missed treatments, or adverse events. By providing a detailed overview of the patient’s status, medications, procedures, and outstanding tasks, the incoming nurse can quickly assess the patient’s needs and prioritize interventions accordingly.

Moreover, nursing shift reports serve as legal documentation, providing a chronological record of the patient’s condition, care provided, and any notable occurrences during a specific timeframe. This documentation can be crucial in the event of legal proceedings, audits, or investigations, as it serves as evidence of the nursing care delivered and the decision-making processes involved.

For nursing students, mastering the art of writing effective shift reports is an invaluable skill that will be utilized throughout their nursing careers. It not only enhances their ability to communicate effectively with fellow healthcare professionals but also reinforces the principles of patient-centered care, critical thinking, and attention to detail.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the essential components of nursing shift reports, explore the significance of effective communication in patient care, and provide practical tips and strategies for crafting clear, concise, and informative shift reports. By understanding the importance of shift reports and developing proficiency in their preparation, nursing students will be better equipped to navigate the complexities of the healthcare environment and contribute to delivering high-quality, safe, and efficient patient care.

Whether in clinical rotations, internships, or future nursing roles, the ability to write comprehensive and accurate shift reports will be an invaluable asset, fostering collaboration, promoting patient safety, and ultimately enhancing the overall quality of care provided to patients.

What is a nursing shift report?

A nursing shift report, also known as a nurse’s report, shift handover, or bedside report, is a crucial communication tool used by nurses to convey essential patient information from one shift to the next. It serves as a comprehensive summary of a patient’s current condition, treatments, and care provided during the outgoing nurse’s shift, ensuring continuity of care and promoting patient safety.

During a shift report, the outgoing nurse provides a detailed account of the patient’s status, including any significant changes, new orders, or interventions that occurred during their shift. This information is then communicated to the incoming nurse, who will be responsible for the patient’s care during the next shift.

Shift reports can take various forms, such as verbal handovers, written reports, or a combination of both. Some healthcare facilities may also utilize electronic medical record systems to document and share shift reports.

What information is included in a nursing shift report?

A comprehensive nursing shift report typically includes the following information:

  1. Patient identification details:
    • Name, age, gender, room number
    • Admission date and reason for admission/chief complaint
    • Relevant medical history and comorbidities
  2. Current vital signs:
    • Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation
    • Any abnormalities or trends in vital signs
  3. Medication administration:
    • List of medications administered during the shift, including dosages, routes, and times
    • Any medication reactions or adverse effects observed
  4. Treatments, procedures, and tests:
    • Ongoing treatments (e.g., IV fluids, wound care, oxygen therapy)
    • Procedures performed during the shift (e.g., dressing changes, catheter insertions)
    • Test results (e.g., lab work, imaging studies) and any pending tests
  5. Patient assessment:
    • Physical assessment findings (e.g., skin integrity, neurological status, respiratory status)
    • Pain levels and pain management interventions
    • Nutritional intake and output (I&O) records
    • Psychosocial and emotional status
  6. Significant events or changes:
    • Detailed description of any significant changes in the patient’s condition
    • New concerns or issues that arose during the shift
    • Interventions taken and their effectiveness
  7. Pending orders or tasks:
    • Outstanding orders from physicians or other healthcare providers
    • Any tasks or follow-up actions required for the incoming shift
  8. Family/caregiver information:
    • Updates provided to family members or caregivers
    • Any concerns or questions raised by the family
  9. Special precautions or considerations:
    • Isolation requirements (e.g., contact, droplet, airborne)
    • Fall risk assessments and interventions
    • Dietary restrictions or specific care needs
  10. Relevant documentation:
    • Location of patient charts, flow sheets, or other relevant documentation
    • Any additional notes or comments for the incoming nurse

Why are nursing shift reports important?

Nursing shift reports are critical for several reasons:

  1. Continuity of care:
    • Shift reports ensure that patient care is seamlessly transitioned between nursing shifts, minimizing the risk of gaps, errors, or missed treatments.
    • They provide a comprehensive overview of the patient’s current status, allowing the incoming nurse to quickly understand the patient’s needs and continue appropriate care.
  2. Patient safety:
    • Accurate and detailed communication of patient information helps prevent adverse events, medication errors, or missed treatments.
    • Shift reports help identify potential risks or issues that require immediate attention or intervention.
  3. Collaboration and teamwork:
    • Shift reports facilitate collaboration among the healthcare team, promoting a shared understanding of the patient’s needs and care plan.
    • They enable effective communication and coordination between nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals involved in the patient’s care.
  4. Legal documentation:
    • Nursing shift reports serve as a legal record of the patient’s condition, care provided, and any significant events or changes during a specific time frame.
    • Accurate and detailed documentation can be crucial in the event of legal proceedings or investigations.
  5. Efficiency and time management:
    • Well-organized and concise shift reports streamline the handover process, saving time and minimizing disruptions in patient care.
    • Effective communication during shift changes can help nurses prioritize tasks and manage their workload more efficiently.
  6. Quality improvement:
    • Shift reports can identify areas for improvement in patient care, such as communication gaps, care coordination issues, or resource needs.
    • Regular review and analysis of shift reports can inform quality improvement initiatives and enhance overall patient care delivery.

How to write an effective nursing shift report?

To write an effective nursing shift report, follow these steps:

  1. Preparation:
    • Gather all relevant patient information, including medical records, charts, flow sheets, and notes from the previous shift.
    • Review the patient’s history, current condition, and any significant events or changes that occurred during your shift.
    • Organize the information in a logical and structured manner, focusing on the most critical details.
  2. Use a standardized format or template:
    • Many healthcare facilities have standardized formats or templates for shift reports to ensure consistency and completeness.
    • If no template is provided, create your own format that covers all essential components of a nursing shift report.
  3. Be objective and factual:
    • Document objective data and observations, such as vital signs, assessment findings, and treatments administered.
    • Avoid subjective or judgmental language when describing the patient’s condition or behavior.
    • Use clear and concise language, avoiding abbreviations or jargon that may be misunderstood.
  4. Prioritize critical information:
    • Highlight any significant changes in the patient’s condition, new concerns, or outstanding issues that require immediate attention from the incoming nurse.
    • Clearly communicate any urgent or time-sensitive tasks or orders that need to be addressed.
  5. Include relevant details:
    • Provide a comprehensive overview of the patient’s care during your shift, including medications administered, treatments provided, and any interventions taken.
    • Include relevant family or caregiver information, such as updates provided or concerns raised.
    • Note any special precautions or considerations, such as isolation requirements, fall risk assessments, or dietary restrictions.
  6. Double-check accuracy:
    • Review the shift report for accuracy and completeness before handing it over to the incoming nurse.
    • Ensure that all pertinent information is included, and any discrepancies or missing data are clarified.
  7. Handover process:
    • During the handover, engage in active communication with the incoming nurse, allowing for questions, clarifications, and feedback.
    • Encourage open dialogue and collaboration to ensure a smooth transition of patient care.

Example of a detailed nursing shift report:

“Mrs. Jane Doe, Room 312, 68 years old, admitted on 05/20/2024 for COPD exacerbation.

Vital Signs (1900): BP 132/86, HR 88, RR 22, T 99.2°F, O2 sat 92% on 2L NC. Respiratory Assessment: Diminished breath sounds in bilateral lower lobes, productive cough with yellowish sputum. Duoneb and Solu-Medrol IV administered at 1600 per standing order.

I&O: 1200 mL intake (oral fluids), 800 mL output (urine). Diet: Regular diet, good appetite. Pain: 3/10 at 1800, received Norco 5/325 mg PO per order.


  • Chest X-ray performed at 1600, waiting for results.
  • Incentive spirometry encouraged every 2 hours.
  • Oxygen therapy via nasal cannula, maintaining O2 sats above 90%.

Family Update: Daughter updated at 1700, no concerns raised.

Outstanding Orders:

  • CBC and BMP labs in the morning.
  • Follow-up with Respiratory Therapy for potential nebulizer treatment in the morning.


  • Fall risk assessment completed, yellow wristband applied.
  • Ambulated with assistance to the bathroom twice during the shift.
  • Charts and flow sheets located at the nurses’ station.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need further clarification.”

Tips on writing a nursing shift report:

  1. Use a consistent format or template:
    • Utilize a standardized format or template provided by your healthcare facility to ensure all essential information is included consistently.
    • If no template is available, create your own format that covers all necessary components of a nursing shift report.
  2. Be concise and focused:
    • Provide relevant and concise information, avoiding unnecessary repetition or irrelevant details.
    • Focus on the most pertinent information, such as changes in the patient’s condition, new orders, or pending tasks.
  3. Use appropriate medical terminology:
    • Utilize appropriate medical terminology and abbreviations

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How to write a patient report example?

Summary: The format of a patient case report encompasses the following five sections: an abstract, an introduction and objective that contain a literature review, a description of the case report, a discussion that includes a detailed explanation of the literature review, a summary of the case, and a conclusion.

What is a written report in nursing?
A nursing report is a document that nurses hand over to others to tell them about the patient’s condition. It can also be used during a legal investigation. Report writing in nursing is of so much importance because it proves very useful during different phases of a patient’s condition or nursing shifts

What is the format of report writing?
Report Writing Format with Templates and Sample Report
There are six main types of reports: annual reports, weekly reports, project reports, sales and marketing reports, research reports and academic reports. A report writing format includes a title, table of contents, summary, introduction, body, conclusion, recommendations and appendices.

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