Caroline Norrie is Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London (330 words)
What can researchers of care services learn from our recent handover study? We asked ourselves this question and discussed this at the annual conference of the British Society of Gerontology held in Swansea last week (pictured below is the new beach side campus) at the start of July. Our paper summarised the findings of our unique exploration into handovers in care homes and then we paused to ask what could be relevant to other researchers studying care home practice and systems.
Our first observation is that if researchers envisage handovers to be a good opportunity to hear and see what is going on in care homes then that may well be so. However our case studies showed that handovers are extremely variable. So researchers should not assume that they will all produce the same type and amount of data.
Second, we think that handovers like other routines and processes do help give an indication of the ‘culture’ of a home; how it works in ‘reality’, rather than through reading policies or talking to just some staff. The ‘etiquette’ of handovers, the symbols used and the ‘drama’ of a handover are well worth getting up early for (like care workers) or staying up late (like care workers).
Third we found that the documentation of handovers varied considerably but they are probably under-used. Our study identified decisions that are made, consciously or not, about regular and routine reporting versus ‘exception’ reporting.
Fourth, our observations (which of course included listening) confirmed the importance of inter-personal communications. This is especially important in care homes where some staff members find written materials in English difficult to access.
Our Abbeyfield Research Foundation study of handovers is published as a scoping review and other articles are in the course of preparation.
Caroline Norrie is Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, KCL.