15 Excellent SBAR Nursing Examples + How to Effectively Use SBAR in Nursing

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Of all the skills nurses develop, communication is the most essential. We use communication to find out what concerns a patient and to relay our thoughts, opinions, and observations to other nurses, peers, and doctors. Communication may be verbal or nonverbal. Nurses must learn communication techniques and use them effectively.

A common communication technique used in nursing today is called SBAR. Perhaps you have heard of this type of communication. Maybe you have not and are asking yourself, "What is SBAR in nursing?” In this article, you will learn what SBAR communication is, why it is important, and find 15 excellent SBAR nursing examples + how to effectively use SBAR in nursing.


What Does SBAR Stand For?

SBAR is an acronym that stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation.

What Exactly Is SBAR In Nursing?

SBAR is a technique used for communicating important, often critical information that requires immediate attention and action. Nursing SBAR serves as a framework to structure conversations between nurses and doctors about medical situations requiring immediate attention and action concerning a patient’s condition.

When Was SBAR Communication First Introduced In Nursing?

The United States military initially developed SBAR communication to facilitate communication on nuclear submarines. SBAR was introduced by rapid response teams at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado in 2003 and used to investigate patient safety.

When Do Nurses Use The SBAR Communication Technique In Nursing?

Nurses can utilize the SBAR nursing technique in a variety of settings and scenarios. This communication strategy is effective when a patient is admitted to the care of a facility or unit or when transfers of care to a new unit or team is necessary. SBAR is also quite useful when dealing with new or worsening conditions when a physician needs to be quickly notified. Because the technique is based on four main components, nurses often find using nursing SBAR is one of the easiest communication strategies to use.

7 Reasons Why SBAR Communication Is So Important in Nursing

Although nurses use various communication strategies, nursing SBAR has some advantages. The following are seven key reasons supporting the importance of using SBAR in nursing communication.

1. Nursing SBAR communication is beneficial because it provides nurses with a framework to communicate with patients, nurses, and physicians quickly and efficiently.

2. When the SBAR in nursing technique is used correctly, it enhances communication between health professionals.

3. The SBAR technique helps guarantee members of the healthcare team receive pertinent information in a systematic, concise manner which supports clear instructions on how to respond to patient needs.

4. When clear, concise information is presented, nurses and other members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team can take that information and act quickly to improve or resolve the situation.

5. Because nursing SBAR communication facilitates rapid response, the risk of jeopardizing patient safety is reduced. Conversely, when there are treatment delays, patient safety is at significant risk of being compromised.

6. While nurses are accustomed to taking more of a descriptive, narrative approach to explain situations, physicians often want to hear the main points. Nursing SBAR technique bridges the gap in differences between nurse and physician communication types, allowing them to understand one another and the patient’s situation better.

7. The SBAR in nursing technique is especially valuable to nurses and other healthcare providers learning effective communication strategies. Because SBAR represents four important components: situation, background, assessment, and recommendation, even new or less experienced nurses can follow this strategy to communicate important information to the patient's healthcare team.

What Is The Difference Between SBAR And Other Forms Of Communication Techniques In Nursing?

There are several types of communication techniques used in nursing. In this section, we will review a few of the types and compare how they differ from SBAR in nursing communication.

• Check-back

is a type of closed-loop nursing communication used to communicate and validate the exchange of information. In check-back communication, a sender initiates a message, and the receiver accepts the message and confirms it by repeating the information to the sender, who then verifies if the message was received correctly.

For example, one member of the nursing team may call out, “Patient’s temp is 103.4, up from 101.2.” Another team member verifies the receipt of the information by stating, “Got it. Temp is 103.4, up from 101.2.” The original sender completes the communication loop by saying, “Correct.”

• Hand-off

is a type of nursing communication used during transitions in care across the continuum of patient care. This strategy is used to enhance the exchange of information during important, sometimes critical times, including transitions in care. The Joint Commission states, "The primary objective of a hand-off is to provide accurate information about a patient's/client's/resident's care, treatment and services, current condition, and any recent or anticipated changes. The information communicated during a hand-off must be accurate to meet patient safety goals.”

• Call-Out

is a communication strategy primarily used during emergency events. The information called out with this type of communication helps team members anticipate and prepare for the next steps in patient care. Call-Out communication informs all team members simultaneously. In call-out communication, members use short questions and answers to relay information, as in the following example.

Team Leader: “Airway?”
RN Team Member: “Airway patent.”
Team Leader: “Breath sounds?”
RN Team Member: “Diminished breath sounds on the left. Right lung sounds clear."
Team Leader: “Vitals?”
RN Team Member: “B/P 138/80, P74, R22, T98.4”


SOAP notes are another form of communication used among healthcare providers. The acronym stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. Nurses and other healthcare professionals use each part of SOAP documentation to guide the flow of their communication.


Subjective information is the chief complaint or presenting problem as reported by the patient. This section of the documentation includes a history of the patient’s present illness, information about the onset of symptoms, their past medical history, a review of systems, and a list of current medications and allergies.


Objective refers to any information the practitioner can observe or measure during the patient encounter. In this section of the SOAP note, the nurse will document vital signs, laboratory test data, diagnostic imaging results, and recognition and/or review of documentation from other clinicians.


Assessment in SOAP communication includes a review of subjective and objective data to conclude a diagnosis/diagnoses. In this step, the nurse or clinician lists all patient problems or concerns in order of importance.


Plan is the final step in SOAP communication/documentation. It addresses the need for any additional steps that may be needed to provide the patient with the best care. This part of SOAP communication should include recommendations for additional testing or consultation with other clinicians or specialists.

What Are The 5 Main Skills Nurses Require To Use SBAR In Nursing?

Nursing SBAR communication is an excellent way to relay messages between nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers. To effectively carry out SBAR communication, nurses need some vital skills. The following are five main skills that will make the use of SBAR in nursing easier.

1. Observation:

One of the key steps in SBAR is assessment. Mastering keen observation skills makes it easier for nurses to gather the necessary information in order to make an appropriate recommendation.

2. Critical thinking:

To properly follow the steps of SBAR in nursing, nurses need solid critical-thinking skills. Nurses must consider the patient's current situation, background, and assessment data and reach a conclusion about the patient's problem or potential problems.

3. Decision-Making:

After reviewing the patient’s information and any assessment data, nurses must decide if there is a need to consult with a nurse leader or doctor and whether standing orders should be implemented. The nurse’s ability to exercise critical thinking and make rapid decisions on behalf of the patient is one of the most influential factors in improving patient outcomes.

4. Interpersonal skills:

When nurses demonstrate strong interpersonal skills, it helps them establish positive relationships with patients and peers. These positive relationships support ongoing positive rapport, which can positively impact patient outcomes and interdisciplinary team effectiveness.

5. Excellent Communication:

No matter which type of technique nurses use to relay patient information, it is essential to have excellent communication skills. Nurses demonstrate good communication skills by providing accurate, patient-centered, evidence-based information to the appropriate person or people in a timely manner.

What Are The 4 Steps Involved In SBAR Nursing Communication?

The four steps involved in using the technique of SBAR in nursing are situation, background, assessment, and recommendation. The following are descriptions of each step of this communication strategy, including the information used in each step.

1. Situation:

The first step of SBAR is to briefly but clearly, describe the current situation. In this step, the nurse will describe the patient's situation in short, basic terms. In this step, the nurse's role is to identify key information, including the patient's name, room number, unit where care is being provided, and your role in the patient's care. Explain the circumstances surrounding the problem, which include what the problem is, how the problem occurred, and the severity of the problem.

2. Background:

After identifying the situation that needs to be addressed, it is necessary to provide relevant background about the patient. Include the date and time of admission, admitting diagnosis, laboratory and diagnostic test results, and the patient’s code status. If previous lab or diagnostic results are available, this is a good time to offer information regarding any changes between previous results and the most current results.

3. Assessment:

In the assessment step, the nurse should state their professional conclusion based on the patient's current situation and background. In this step, as the nurse, you should ask yourself, "What do I think the problem is?" For instance, if your assessment reveals decreased breath sounds in the left lung and the patient complains of pain, you may wish to rule out pneumonia or pneumothorax.

4. Recommendation:

Based on your knowledge of the patient and relevant data, this step of SBAR nursing communication is where you recommend an action plan regarding what you think the next steps in patient care should be. Remember, your opinions based on your assessment of your patient's status is important. Do not be afraid to express your concerns and make a recommendation for care to the appropriate team member.

6 Things Every Nurse Must Do Before Beginning An SBAR Conversation

1. Assess the patient:

Depending on where a patient is being treated, he could have several members of the healthcare team providing services. For example, one patient may have a nursing assistant, licensed practical/vocational nurse, registered nurse, charge nurse, respiratory, occupational, physical, and/or speech therapists, and a doctor. Each member of the team is responsible for assessments appropriate for their role. However, before you begin an SBAR-formatted conversation, you should assess the patient yourself. This is essential because when the doctor asks how a patient looked or sounded, he wants the information to come from the source of the conversation (you).

2. Verify current orders for the patient’s care:

Nothing is more embarrassing than asking a doctor to offer a treatment option for something that is already covered in the plan of care. For example, if you have a patient with a diagnosis of hypertension, chances are there is already an order for a routine antihypertensive in the patient's chart. If the patient was admitted for a hypertensive crisis, there might be a prn order for times when the patient's blood pressure spikes. So, word of advice, if you have a hypertension patient with a blood pressure reading of 190/100, check the chart before calling the doctor.

3. Verify important information:

For nursing SBAR communication to be effective, you need to have the right information and enough of it. Be prepared to give a brief overview of the patient's time in your facility. This is important because the doctor who answers your page may not be the attending physician. If you need to communicate with a doctor after hours or on the weekend, chances are a resident or on-call physician will be the one to call you. Additionally, doctors may have several patients in more than one facility. So don't assume the doctor will know all the details about a patient just because you tell them the patient's name. Information you should verify includes the patient's name, admitting diagnosis, date of admission, and any significant laboratory or diagnostic tests and their results.

4. Organize your thoughts:

Go through the SBAR steps in your mind and make sure you cover every step so that you are prepared to speak with the doctor. You may find it helpful to write down some notes to use as a reference when speaking to the doctor. Remember, although SBAR communication is designed to be a simple way to communicate, that does not mean important information should be omitted. If you think something is important, you need to mention it.

5. Have ready access to the patient’s chart or electronic health record:

No matter how prepared you feel to talk with the doctor or other healthcare team members, they may have a question that you do not know the answer to immediately. Having the patient's chart close by will be helpful if you need to find information quickly. For example, the doctor may ask what the last two vital signs measurements were, the last time a specific medication was given, or the patient's code status.

6. Think like a doctor (sort of):

While nurses do not make medical diagnoses, we are pretty good at gauging a doctor's response or being prepared for things they may request. With that in mind, anticipate the information the physician may need to make an informed decision about the patient's care and have that information readily available for when you talk to them.


Nurses often use SBAR communication to relay important information to physicians. This type of communication makes it easy to relay important information quickly, providing a brief overview of the patient's status and recommended interventions. The following are 6 SBAR nursing examples demonstrating communication between nurses and physicians.

Example #1: Patient with Dyspnea and Chest Pain

• Situation:

“Dr. Fatima, this is Dana McIntyre, RN, from the Med-Surg floor at ABC Hospital. I’m calling about your patient, Mr. John Simpson. Mr. Simpson is complaining of shortness of breath and chest pain.”

• Background:

“Mr. Simpson had a heart attack two weeks ago and was admitted yesterday for observation due to new complaints of chest pain. His pulse is 124, and his blood pressure is 100/58. He is restless and experiencing rapid, shallow breathing."

• Assessment:

“Given his history, I am concerned he may be experiencing a new cardiac event.”

• Recommendation:

“I've initiated O2 per NC as per standing order and request an order for an EKG and for you to assess him immediately. Do you agree?"

Example #2: Patient with a History of GI Bleed

• Situation:

“Dr. Michaels, this is Mary Hall, RN, calling from CCU at St. Augustine’s Medical Center. I'm calling about Mr. Holland in Room 115. His skin is pale and clammy, and he is confused and weak. He is also complaining of pressure in his chest.”

• Background:

“Mr. Holland was admitted for a GI bleed for which he received two units of blood and tolerated well. He has a history of HTN. His hematocrit level was 20 two hours ago. Vital signs are BP 90/54, P 118, R 24, and T 98.7."

• Assessment:

“I'm concerned he may have an active bleed, but with his history, we can't rule out a cardiac event. We don't have a troponin level or recent hematocrit and hemoglobin."

• Recommendation:

“I feel like it would be appropriate to order labs and an EKG and have you assess him right away. If you agree, let me know what labs you want, and I'll order them and the EKG stat. With a stat order, hopefully, we can have results while you are here. Is this agreeable with you?"

Example #3: Patient Complaining of Abdominal Pain Following Bariatric Surgery

• Situation:

“Good afternoon, Dr. Sheffield. This is Maryn McCoy, RN, on Unit 9 at Our Lady of Lordes. I'm caring for Mrs. Johnetta King, who had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy yesterday evening.

• Background:

“Mrs. King called me to her room complaining of severe abdominal pain, despite taking prescribed pain medication. She has been walking, as per your order, but now states she hurts too much to walk.”

• Assessment:

“Leak test was negative. Her incision site looks great. Bowel sounds are active. Her temperature is normal, 98.6. However, blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate are all elevated."

• Recommendation:

“I feel like she will be more willing to walk, as you have ordered if she is not in pain. Can we change the dose of Mrs. King's pain medication or offer an alternative to help alleviate her pain?"

Example #4: Patient Exhibiting Complications Following a Blood Transfusion

• Situation:

"Hi, Dr. Michaels. This is Amanda Nettles, the RN on the hematology day ward. I'm calling about Ms. Madison Dean, who has Stage III lung CA."

• Background:

“Ms. Nettles' hemoglobin level dropped to 8g/dL following her last round of chemotherapy. She came in this morning for a transfusion of 2 units of red blood cells. She received the first unit of blood over ninety minutes with no complications. The second unit was started thirty minutes ago. Within the last fifteen minutes, Ms. Nettles' heart rate and blood pressure have both increased. She is complaining of her heart fluttering and difficulty breathing."

• Assessment:

"Ms. Nettles' heart rate is 124 and blood pressure is 154/92. Her respirations are 28 and shallow. I am concerned Ms. Nettles is experiencing circulatory overload. Therefore, I discontinued the transfusion and started O2 @2L per NC, as per standing orders. There is no order for diuretic per this admission."

• Recommendation:

"I believe it is expedient for you to assess Ms. Nettles right away. Are there any treatments you wish for me to initiate in the meantime or anything I can get for you that will be necessary for your assessment?"

Example #5: Patient Exhibiting Signs of Pulmonary Embolism

• Situation:

“Hi, Dr. Slater. This is Amanda Carlton, RN. I am calling from Franklinton Medical Center about your patient, Mrs. Jennifer Jenkins."

• Background:

"Mrs. Jenkins had an abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy yesterday evening at 1800. She slept well, and vital signs remained within normal limits per the overnight shift report."

• Assessment:

"She is experiencing a sudden onset of dyspnea with complaints of dizziness, lightheadedness, and anxiety. Her respirations are guarded as she complains of pain with breathing. She is coughing some but trying to prevent herself from doing so because of the pain. Heart rate is elevated at 120 and irregular. Blood pressure is 110/58. Pulse oximetry is not possible because the pulse ox cannot detect a consistent pulse."

• Recommendation:

"Based on her symptoms, I am concerned she may be experiencing a pulmonary embolism. I've initiated oxygen per standing order and request your attention for a thorough assessment and instructions."

Example #6: Nurse Suspects Pneumonia in Patient with Respiratory Symptoms

• Situation:

“Dr. Khalid, this is Debra Elliott. I'm an RN at St. Mary's Hospital. We have a patient, Mr. John Michaelson, who was transported to the emergency room at 0800 for complaints of rapid onset shortness of breath and reports of fever since yesterday morning. Mr. Michaelson has stated you are his primary care provider."

• Background:

"Per Mr. Michaelson's report, the only significant medical history he has is hypertension for which he takes daily medication. He is a non-smoker. Other than antihypertensive medications, he takes a baby aspirin and men's multivitamin daily."

• Assessment:

"Mr. Michaelson has a cough, dyspnea, and is complaining of chest pain when breathing. The ER physician ordered an EKG that showed no abnormal cardiac rhythm or suggestion of myocardial infarction. Because of his symptoms and the negative initial cardiac results, I wonder if Mr. Michaelson may have pneumonia."

• Recommendation:

"With your permission, I'd like to repeat lab work and include adding a troponin level, just in case the EKG missed anything, as well as administer a formal chest x-ray. Also, do you think it would be appropriate to start him on a round of antibiotics?"


In nursing, SBAR communication helps facilitate focused, easy communication. This is especially useful during the transition of patient care, such as at the end of shift. The following are 6 examples of nurse-to-nurse SBAR examples.

Example #1: Patient with Diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure

• Situation:

“This is Amy Harington, RN, offering hand-off report to Lisa Howell, RN, for patient Mr. Aubrey Smith, in room 305.”

• Background:

“Mr. Smith was admitted this morning for exacerbation of chronic congestive heart failure. On admission, Mr. Smith's blood pressure was elevated at 156/90 with 3+ pitting edema noted in both lower extremities. Weight on admission is 245lbs., which he states, is an increase of six pounds since he weighed last week. The last weight recorded in Mr. Smith's EHR was entered at his primary care provider's office and was 238 lbs. That weight was three weeks ago. Chest x-ray and EKG are negative for any alterations since last pre-hospital testing. He reported being out of his meds at home. Dr. Drakin ordered O2 @ 2L per nasal cannula, Lasix 40 mg once each morning, Potassium 20mEq once daily, and Hydralazine 25 mg. Q6h."

• Assessment:

“Mr. Smith was given initial doses of Lasix, potassium, and hydralazine upon admission. He received the second dose of hydralazine at noon and is due for the next dose at 1800 today. His last blood pressure reading showed some relief with a measurement of 144/86. Edema currently remains at 3+ pitting BLE. He experiences increased dyspnea on exertion. Although his lungs are presently clear to auscultation bilaterally, his respirations seem to be more shallow than when he was admitted. I notified Dr. Drakin that Mr. Smith is experiencing dyspnea on exertion, increased anxiety, and no relief in edema since this morning and asked him to consult or respond with any medication changes, including considering Lasix IV to relieve the edema and prevent pulmonary congestion due to fluid overload.”

• Recommendation:

"If edema does not resolve within 24 hours, I'd like to ask Dr. Drakin to order a new chest x-ray to determine if there is any pulmonary compromise. Also, I'd like to update the nursing care plan with two new nursing diagnoses: excess fluid volume related to pitting edema and orthopnea and activity intolerance related to dyspnea on exertion and include interventions for each diagnosis to be implemented immediately. Do you agree?"

Example #2: Patient on 24-Hour Observation Following Motor Vehicle Accident

• Situation:

“Mrs. Brister was admitted yesterday evening at 1730 following a motor vehicle accident. She did not sustain any serious injuries but was admitted for 24-hour observation due to concern of a possible concussion because her head hit the windshield."

• Background:

“Upon admission and in subsequent assessments, Mrs. Brister has been alert and oriented x4. Following discharge, she will return to her home, where she lives with her husband and adult daughter. Mrs. Brister, her husband, and their daughter have been instructed on signs and symptoms of concussion and circumstances under which Mrs. Brister should return to the emergency room."

• Assessment:

“Per my last assessment, there have been no signs of concussion. Mrs. Brister’s vital signs are stable, and she reports her headache has resolved after receiving APA 325 mg (two) at 1415.”

• Recommendation:

"I recommend continued monitoring until the 24-hour period elapses, and if no symptoms emerge, follow through with discharge order including instructions about over-the-counter pain medication for headache or other pain and to report any symptoms of dizziness, blurred vision, or fainting immediately."

Example #3: Night Nurse Giving SBAR Report to Oncoming Nurse for Patient Admitted During the Overnight Shift

• Situation:

“Mrs. Thomas, in room 316, is an 84-year-old female admitted last night at 2230. She arrived at the emergency rule via ambulance from Magnolia Nursing Home where she reportedly fell trying to go to the restroom unattended.”

• Background:

“Mrs. Thomas has a history of Alzheimer's and diabetes. She is a no-code patient, and supporting documentation has been scanned into her chart. Her next of kin was notified by the nursing home about her fall, and I phoned the son to report her admission to our facility. Her son states that he and his sister will be arriving this morning to be with her and meet the doctors.”

• Assessment:

“Radiology report indicates intertrochanteric hip fracture. Although her right thigh and hip are bruised, her skin is intact. Vital signs remain stable. She denies pain presently. Her last pain medication was morphine at 2300 while in the ER. She has denied the need for any pain relievers since that time.”

• Recommendation:

“Surgeon has been consulted but has not yet confirmed surgery for this morning. I recommend continued pain assessment and follow-up with surgery to determine plan of action.”

Example #4: Patient at Physician’s Office Being Made a Direct Admit to Hospital

• Situation:

“This is Christy Rials, RN, from Dr. Burgess' office calling to give report on a patient Dr. Burgess is sending as a direct admit. The client, Ms. Chasity Lewis, arrived at the clinic this morning and, based on her chief complaint of weight loss, a blood sugar assessment and urinalysis were performed. Based on the result, Dr. Burgess diagnosed Ms. Lewis with Diabetes.”

• Background:

“Ms. Lewis reports a 21 lb. weight loss in less than a month, which is consistent with her health records. Today's weight in the clinic is 131 lbs. She weighed 152 at her last visit here four weeks ago. She also reported frequent hunger, thirst, and urination. The patient has no significant health history, no food or drug allergies, and no complaints of pain or other concerns.”

• Assessment:

“Urinalysis revealed the presence of ketones in the urine, and her blood sugar was 432 mg/dL.”

• Recommendation:

“Medication orders attached to admission order in the EHR. Additionally, the patient requires monitoring of blood sugars before meals and at hs. Request nutritionist consult to educate on diabetic diet and diabetes nurse consultation to educate the patient on insulin administration and blood sugar monitoring at home.”

Example #5: Pediatric RN Consults Nurse Leader Regarding Suspected Child Abuse

• Situation:

"Nurse Sherman, I am the emergency room RN-P assigned to care for S. Wilson, a six-year-old boy. I have some concerns I'd like to share with you and get your advice." "Scotty was brought to the emergency room this morning with complaints of severe stomach pain and weight loss."

• Background:

"Routine lab work showed signs of anemia, low calcium, and vitamin D deficiency. An abdominal x-ray was negative for any abnormalities."

• Assessment:

"I do not have a full health record to compare, but according to his mother, he 'just won't eat and is getting skinny.' When I performed the head-to-toe assessment on Scotty, I found several bruises of varying stages of healing in his back, both upper arms, and on the back of his legs. His mother told me he is clumsy. Scotty will not answer the simplest questions and when I try to engage him, his mother seems to take over the conversation."

• Recommendation:

"I would really like to have you and the pediatrician take a closer look at Scotty and see if you come to the same concerns as I did. If the situation warrants, I feel the office of Children and Family Services should be notified to evaluate the home and family situation for Scotty's safety. Do you agree?"

Example #6: RN Giving Report to Another Nurse About Patient Suspected of Having Appendicitis

• Situation:

“Tyler Wilson is a 15-year-old Caucasian male brought to the ER with complaints of abdominal pain and fever.”

• Background:

“Tyler’s father reports he was awakened around 4 a.m. with Tyler complaining of unbearable pain in his stomach around his belly button. At that time, his temperature was 100.6.”

• Assessment:

“Tyler’s vital signs are currently T 101.6, R 24, P 94, BP 136/82, O2 98%. He continues to complain of pain but states it is more in the RLQ, with positive rebound tenderness in that area. Tyler has vomited twice in the last hour and states his stomach hurts with movement.”

• Recommendation:

“Lab results are pending. I have notified Dr. Michaels with a request to order a CT of the abdomen. Is there anything else you'd like to request or other suggestions for interventions?"


Nurses often use the SBAR technique when communicating with non-nursing healthcare team members or providers. The following are 3 SBAR nursing examples demonstrating communication of how nurses use SBAR to relay information to other healthcare providers.

Example #1: Nurse Is Concerned About a Patient with Suspected Intracranial Hemorrhage, Phones Radiology Supervisor to Request Earlier CT Scan

• Situation:

"Hi, Mr. Wilson. This is Rai Porter, RN, on the Med-Surg observation unit. I am caring for Ms. Jane Gentzler who is scheduled for a CT scan in the morning."

• Background:

"Ms. Gentzler was admitted for observation after being brought to the hospital following a fall in her home. She has a fractured left tibia that surgery has been consulted on and a laceration on the right side of her forehead. We are doing hourly neuro checks, and she has a repeat CT scan ordered for tomorrow morning."

• Assessment:

"I just performed a neuro check on her and she is demonstrating some decline since the last check. She is very confused, complains of dizziness and a headache. In addition to other daily medications and vitamins, Ms. Gentzler takes Coumadin 5 mg. every day."

• Recommendation:

"I am concerned that her rapid decline may be related to a possible intracranial hemorrhage coupled by the fall and her daily Coumadin use. I'd like to request that her CT scan be done as soon as possible instead of waiting until later in the morning. Do you agree, and can you help facilitate this?"

Example #2: Nurse Talks with Occupational Therapist About Educational Needs of Parents
of a Pediatric Patient with Blood Disorder

• Situation:

“Michael Ricks is a nine-year-old patient on the peds floor with a recent diagnosis of acute idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.”

• Background:

"Michael was admitted to pediatrics from the emergency room three days ago. His mother reported that Michael has been experiencing spontaneous nosebleeds, bleeding gums, unexplained bruises, and extreme fatigue. He was active in sports until the last few months."

• Assessment:

"Today, his platelet count is 97,000. All vital signs are stable. He has not had a nosebleed in the last twenty-four hours."

• Recommendation:

“I’d like to request OT offer education about ways to create a safe home environment and offer ideas for activities that pose less of a risk to him.”

Example #3: Nurse Notifies On-Call Resident With Concerns About CHF Patient

• Situation:

"Hi, Dr. DeRouen. This is Amanda Shaw, RN on Med-Surg 2. I'm calling about Mr. Bill Jones in room 201."

• Background:

“Mr. Jones was admitted to CICU four days ago with congestive heart failure and transferred to our floor two days later.”

• Assessment:

"His weight today is three pounds more than when he was discharged from CICU. His blood pressure is 164/100 vs. 150/92 last night. He also has increased edema in his feet and ankles bilaterally. When reviewing his chart, I noted his dietary order is for a regular diet."

• Recommendation:

"With the increased edema, weight gain, and the change in his blood pressure, I wondered if you feel it would be appropriate to add Lasix to his medication regimen. Also, no fluid or dietary restrictions were ordered. I'd like to change his diet to a 2gr Na and monitor fluid intake. Do you agree?"

5 Most Common Challenges Nurses Face When Using SBAR In Nursing And How To Overcome Them

Effective communication among nurses and other healthcare professionals can be challenging, at times. The following are a few challenges nurses may face when using the technique of SBAR in nursing communication.

Challenge #1: SBAR in Nursing is Sometimes a Difficult Concept to Learn and Apply

About the Challenge:

Some nurses find using SBAR in nursing is a difficult concept to learn and use. If nurses face challenges learning communication techniques and begin to feel overwhelmed, it can result in poor communication, which may negatively impact patient care and outcomes.

How to Overcome:

The best way to overcome this challenge is to take your time learning about each step of SBAR in nursing and practice. The more you use a skill, the better you become at doing it.

Challenge #2: Sometimes, the Amount of Information Given Seems Lacking

About the Challenge:

SBAR communication is typically used when handing off care or in emergency situations when pertinent information needs to be relayed quickly. Because of the nature of this communication technique, it can sometimes leave the person receiving information feeling as though they do not know enough to form valid opinions about their patient and the care they may need.

How to Overcome:

It is possible to use SBAR in nursing and include enough data for the recipient of information to take over care confidently. As you prepare to use nursing SBAR, think about the things you would want someone to tell you if you were receiving a patient into your care. Share relevant information and be direct. Also, give the other person a chance to ask questions, if needed.

Challenge #3: Some Nurses Are Apprehensive About Giving Recommendations to Doctors

About the Challenge:

Even the most experienced nurses may have reservations about giving doctors suggestions about how to care for patients or making recommendations for care. These feelings of apprehension could result in the nurse not following through completely with the recommendation step of the technique, resulting in a negative impact on patient outcomes.

How to Overcome:

The best way to overcome this challenge is to remember, no one knows everything there is to know about a patient or situation. Even if you feel anxious about making a recommendation to a doctor or someone with more training than you, you can get the point across without seeming bossy.

An excellent way to do this is to make a direct statement about what you would like to see happen next for the patient such as ordering an x-ray or blood work. Then, follow your statement with a simple question like, "Do you agree?" or "Is there anything I missed that you feel would be more appropriate?" This approach lets you voice your concerns and shows respect for the other person.

Challenge #4: The Culture Within the Healthcare Field Sometimes Resists Change

About the Challenge:

The healthcare industry is ever-changing and growing. However, we are creatures of habit. Although things within healthcare and nursing change often, nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals tend to cling to old habits, which may include older ways of communicating. If nurses do not understand SBAR communication or feel it is too challenging to use, they may resist change, negatively affecting communication within the team.

How to Overcome:

When working in a healthcare facility where SBAR is the preferred method of communication, nurses must accept a culture of change where they can adopt and maintain the communication format designated by their employers.

Challenge #5: SBAR Communication Usually Occurs Absent the Patient’s Presence

About the Challenge:

Not all nursing communication occurs at the patient's bedside, but that does not mean patient input is not valuable. One of the challenges of using SBAR in nursing communication is when report occurs away from the patient's bedside, the patient does not have an opportunity to be included in developing or revising their care plan and goals. This is an important challenge to overcome because there is evidence supporting improved patient outcomes when patients are involved in their own care.

How to Overcome:

It is possible to overcome the challenge of a patient's absence during SBAR communication. The easiest way is for nurses to make good use of the time spent doing the patient assessment. Ask the patient questions and give them a chance to offer feedback. If your patient offers an idea of something he feels would be beneficial, mention that when making your recommendation. This is an excellent way to keep the patient involved, even if he is not present during the SBAR communication.

BONUS! 5 Expert Tips To Effectively Use SBAR In Nursing

Whether you are just learning about SBAR in nursing or want to improve your skills, there are a few things you can do to help your SBAR communication be effective. The following are a few tips to consider to help you effectively use SBAR in nursing.

1. Follow each step of the SBAR technique.

In some situations, using SBAR in nursing can seem time-consuming. However, if that's the technique you use, do it correctly. Take one step at a time and be sure to gather the information you need for each step before progressing to the next.

2. Get organized.

If your facility encourages the use of SBAR in verbal communication, you may want to jot down some notes to help you remember important facts. On the other hand, if your employer offers a written template to use SBAR nursing, write your information clearly and concisely to ensure correct information is relayed.

3. Relay relevant information.

It can be easy to get caught up in long, drawn-out conversations or notes. However, it is best to stay focused on the patient's immediate situation, and needs.

4. Give the other person time to ask follow-up questions.

Communication is a two-way street. To be effective, it is vital for everyone involved in the communication to understand the information. Do not rush the receiver of the information. Allow them to process what you have said and ask questions.

5. Work with the team member you are reporting to so you can develop a suitable plan of action.

Two or more people working together for a common goal can often get things accomplished much faster. Share your thoughts and recommendations and allow them to give you feedback. Then develop a plan together.

My Final Thoughts

Learning to communicate effectively with other nurses, physicians, and healthcare providers is vital for improving patient outcomes. In this article, we discussed the answer to the question, "What is SBAR in nursing?” and provided 15 excellent SBAR nursing examples + how to effectively use it in nursing. As a nurse, it is essential to develop strong communication skills and implement measures to work together as a team. By using the examples and information provided in this article, you can begin to strengthen your SBAR nursing communication skills.


1. Is SBAR In Nursing A Verbal OR Written Communication Tool?

SBAR in nursing can be used in either written or verbal forms.

2. Are All Types Of Nurses Required To Use The SBAR Technique In Nursing?

Although all nurses learn the SBAR nursing technique, the type of communication and/or documentation each uses may vary. Typically, the healthcare facility or employer establishes a specific communication technique to be used by the nursing staff. Therefore, even if you are familiar and comfortable with SBAR communication, be sure to verify if that is the technique your employer wishes for you to use when communicating about patients.

3. Is SBAR A Standard Format In Nurse And Physician Communication?

SBAR is a standard format used for communicating between nurses and physicians, as well as other healthcare professionals. However, some healthcare facilities may prefer different formats or communication techniques. Therefore, all nurses should verify the type of communication methods that are acceptable at their place of employment.

4. What Information Should Nurses Include When Using SBAR?

When using SBAR, nurses should include several pieces of data. The patient's name, admitting diagnosis, pertinent medical history, recent lab or diagnostic test results, vital signs, any complaints from the patient or observations that concerns the nurse, and a recommendation for care are examples of information that should be included when using SBAR in nursing.

5. Is SBAR Evidence-Based?

SBAR in nursing is an evidence-based communication strategy used for improving communication, especially when it is combined with strong clinical judgment, critical thinking, and assessment skills.

6. What Is The Difference Between SBAR And SOAP?

SOAP and SBAR are both techniques used to organize data and report patient information from nurse to nurse or other healthcare professionals. The acronym SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan. SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation. While both techniques are used to relay patient information, SBAR is the format most often used to give a written or verbal report. SOAP communication is often presented as a written note.

7. Is SBAR A Progress Note?

SBAR in itself is not a progress note. It is a type of communication guided by the steps represented by the acronym. However, some facilities utilize SBAR progress notes. Some nurses find using progress notes prepared with the SBAR format help them stay focused on the patient and task at hand.

8. How Do You Write A Good SBAR Nursing Note?

Writing a good SBAR nursing note requires following the steps of the technique and including all pertinent information. Using clear, concise language relevant to the patient’s current situation and needs is essential for creating a good SBAR nursing note.

9. Do Nurses Have Difficulty Using SBAR?

According to research from the National Library of Medicine, twenty-four percent of nurses feel SBAR documentation is difficult because it is time-consuming. The same research indicates that fifty-three percent of nurses surveyed feel that SBAR is difficult to use because of reservations about the recommendation step of the process.

10. Do Nursing Schools Teach SBAR?

Nursing schools teach various forms of communication, including SBAR. Many schools have implemented the updated version of SBAR, I-SBAR-R.

11. Does SBAR Assist Nurses To Think Critically?

SBAR in nursing communication encourages critical thinking. Nurses who use this communication technique must look at the patient's current situation and background, and then form their own assessment and recommendation.

12. How Does Nursing SBAR Improve Patient Safety?

SBAR in nursing communication is believed to create conditions conducive to the exchange of accurate information. This type of communication encourages dialogue between nurses and other healthcare professionals. Effective, open communication decreases the risk of errors, and encourages a team approach to patient care, increasing patient safety.

13. How Do I Differentiate Between Background And Assessment In An SBAR?

Background is the "history" of what has happened with the patient. Assessment is your observation based on subjective and objective data.

14. What If I Don’t Have A Recommendation When Using The SABR Tool?

If you want to use the SBAR nursing tool but find it difficult to decide on a recommendation you feel is appropriate, ask questions of the person with whom you are communicating. Tell them your concerns and see if you can conclude about possible recommendations together. Nursing requires teamwork, and this may be one of those times you have to lean on a team member or the physician to help resolve an issue.

15. Can My Recommendation Upset The Physician?

There is always a chance that your recommendation may not sit well with the physician or anyone else you use SBAR communication with. Remember, as a nurse, it is your responsibility to advocate for your patient. If you feel something needs to be addressed, do it. Your recommendation does not mean the physician has to go along with you. Don't forget to document your communication and any response or write "awaiting response" if the physician does not answer.

16. How To Use SBAR In A Nursing Home?

Nursing homes use SBAR in various ways. The most common way of using SBAR in nursing homes is when floor nurses communicate with charge nurses or primary care physicians to discuss patient statuses and request evaluations or changes in patient care.

17. How To Track Which Nurse Is Using SBAR In Hand-off?

The nursing using SBAR in hand-off will include specific information in their report: the patient's situation, background, the nurse's assessment of the patient, and any recommendation for care. SBAR in nursing is a type of closed loop communication. You will be able to track which nurse is using SBAR in hand-off by determining who initiates the message, interprets the message, and follows up to make sure the intended message was received.

18. What Is I-SBAR-R And How Is It Different From SBAR In Nursing?

I-SBAR-R is an adaptation to the original form of SBAR communication. This type of communication includes two additional steps: I stands for Identification. In this step, the person communicating, and the patient are identified. The R in I-SBAR-R represents Readback. Readback is a step in which the person receiving the information restates the message received for verification.

19. Is It Okay Not To Use SBAR In Nursing?

While SBAR is a popular technique for nursing communication, it is not the only option. Some employers or healthcare organizations have guidelines for the type of communication nurses must use when working for them. It is always best to verify the type of communication your employer prefers and use that technique.

20. Does Nursing SBAR Really Work?

When used correctly, SBAR nursing communication can be quite effective. It’s important to realize everyone involved in the communication must understand the technique and why it is used to get the best results.

21. How To Use SBAR In Nursing Non-Clinically?

SBAR in nursing is not limited to clinical nursing care. Nurse leaders, nurse educators, and healthcare administrators can use the same technique to address situations and find solutions. If the individuals identify a problem (Situation), find out when the problem started (Background), and try to determine the results of the problem (Assessment), they can plan (Recommendation) to resolve any issues.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).