An easy to use, structured form of communication that enables information to be transferred accurately between individuals.

What is it?

SBAR is an easy to use, structured communication format that enables information to be transferred accurately between individuals. SBAR stands for 'Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation' and was originally developed in the military context to create a reliable consistent process to facilitate concise, clear, focused communication.

SBAR communication is normally very focused and relatively brief. Most SBARs are around one page of A4, two at most.  The aim is to convey the critical information in an understandable way, clearly and succinctly.

The SBAR tool has also been widely used by healthcare teams as a focused way of transferring information about a person's condition.

Two examples are included below.  The first is an example from a clinical healthcare setting.  The second is an example of the tool being used to communicate about a national improvement priority.  These two examples show how the tool can be adapted for use in different contexts and for different purposes.

What does this tool look like?
Explanation of the SBAR tool
Why use this tool?

SBAR can be used in any setting to communicate more effectively. It can be particularly effective in reducing the barrier to effective communication across different disciplines and between different levels of staff.

When people use SBAR, they conclude by making specific recommendations that help to ensure the reason for the communication is clear. This is particularly important in situations where people may be uncomfortable about making a recommendation, eg those who are inexperienced or who need to communicate with someone who is more senior than them in an organisation.

The use of SBAR provides clarity to communication and prevents the unreliable process of ‘hinting and hoping’ that the other person/target audience understands.

Where does this tool fit in the improvement journey?

 

This tool is relevant at this stage of the Quality Improvement Journey.

How to use it

The four 'SBAR' headings allow you to frame conversations in a standardised was as follows:

 1. Situation. Concisely identify the current situation and give a description of the purpose for this communication.  Who are you?  Why are you initiating this SBAR? What is happening currently?

 2. Background. Put the current situation into its context. Give a brief overview of the reason you are doing this work/project. 

 3. Assessment. This is the section where you might go into a little more detail and be very clear about the message you wish to communicate.

Outline of where the project currently is, key findings and data analysis, knowledge you have built through testing thus far, and/or any barriers encountered. 

The tone could be positive or negative (or both) depending on the purpose of your communication.   Is it a routine update? Is it a pitch to get more funding, time or spread opportunities? Are you making the case to abandon? This section will be shaped depending on the specific aim of your SBAR.

 4. Recommendation. Your recommendation may vary depending on what stage you are at with your project, and what the purpose of the SBAR is:

  • Early stage: how could the project be set up? Who should be involved? How will you work together and make decisions?
  • Mid stage: suggestions for next steps based on knowledge built so far. Is there something that should be abandoned? Something that should be tested further? Or perhaps a new change idea?
  • End stage: recommendations for scale-up and spread? Context specific learning to captured for spread stage?
Resources to download