Nursing handoff is a communication activity with a high risk for loss or omission of information. Efforts to improve handoffs include standardization of the processes and content of handoff communications.


To examine nurses’ perspectives on the structure and organization of change-of-shift handoffs.


A qualitative descriptive approach was used to conduct a secondary analysis of focus group data. Thirty-four nurses from 4 critical care units participated in focus groups.


Three themes emerged: handoff elements are defined by practice and culture; a clear, consistent, identified structure supports handoff; and personal preferences can disrupt handoff.


A standardized approach to handoff based on unit and organizational needs will be more successful than a broad mandate of content and organization. Individual preference is prevalent and strongly influences the information conveyed and the structure of handoff communication.

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