Transition in Care from EMS Providers to Emergency Department Nurses: A Systematic Review

Gudrun Reay, Jill M. Norris, Lorelli Nowell, K. Alix Hayden, Katherine Yokom, Eddy S. Lang, Gerald C. Lazarenko, Joanna Abraham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Transitions in care between emergency medical services (EMS) providers and emergency department (ED) nurses are critical to patient care and safety. However, interactions between EMS providers and ED nurses can be problematic with communication gaps and have not been extensively studied. The aim of this review was to examine (1) factors that influence transitions in care from EMS providers to ED nurses and (2) the effectiveness of interventional strategies to improve these transitions. Methods: We conducted a mixed-methods systematic review that included searches of electronic databases (DARE, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, CINAHL, Joanna Briggs Institute EBP), gray literature databases, organization websites, querying experts in emergency medicine, and the reference lists cited in included studies. All English-language studies of any design were eligible for inclusion. Two reviewers independently screened titles/abstracts and full-texts for inclusion and methodological quality, as well as extracted data from included studies. We used narrative and thematic synthesis to integrate and explore relationships within the data. Results: In total, 8,348 studies were screened and 130 selected for full text review. The final synthesis included 20 studies. Across 15 studies of moderate-to-high methodological quality, 6 factors influenced transitions: different professional lenses, operational constraints, professional relationships, information shared between the professions, components of the transition process, and patient presentation and involvement. Three interventions were identified in 6 methodologically weak studies: (1) transition guideline (DeMIST, Identification, Mechanism/Medical complaint, Injuries/Information related to the complaint, Signs, Treatment and Trends–Allergies, Medication, Background history, Other information [IMIST-AMBO]) with training, (2) mobile web-based technology (EMS smartphone and geographic information system location data), and (3) a new clinical role (ED ambulance off-load nurse dedicated to triaging and assessing EMS patients). There were mixed findings for the effectiveness of transition guidelines and the new clinical role. Mobile technology was seen positively by both EMS providers and ED nurses as helpful for better describing the pre-hospital context and for planning flow in the ED. Conclusion: While multimedia applications may potentially improve the handoff process, future intervention studies need to be rigorously designed. We recommend interdisciplinary training of EMS and ED staff in the use of flexible structured protocols, especially given review findings that interdisciplinary communication and relationships can be challenging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-433
Number of pages13
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2020


  • emergency department triage
  • emergency medical services
  • handover
  • systematic review
  • transition in care


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