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SBAR: Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation

SBAR is a technique that helps facilitate communication mainly used by health care workers. See the following paragraph from SBAR Communication Helps Nurses (Minority Nurse, 2015):

The SBAR communication method relies on standard steps which a nurse can fine-tune with experience. The acronym stands for the steps needed – situation (state what is going on very briefly); background (relevant information about medications or prior diagnosis); assessment (what you think is going on and needed); and recommendation (what are you asking the physician to do – change medication or reassess patient, etc.).

Let’s see it in action in this example originally published on SBAR Nursing: a How-to Guide (Rivier University, 2016):

“Dr. Jones, this is Deb McDonald RN, I am calling from ABC Hospital about your patient Jane Smith.”

Situation

“Here’s the situation: Mrs. Smith is having increasing dyspnea and is complaining of chest pain.”

Background

“The supporting background information is that she had a total knee replacement two days ago. About two hours ago she began complaining of chest pain. Her pulse is 120 and her blood pressure is 128 over 54. She is restless and short of breath.”

Assessment

“My assessment of the situation is that she may be having a cardiac event or a pulmonary embolism.”

Recommendation

“I recommend that you see her immediately and that we start her on O2 stat. Do you agree?”

But SBAR can also be used to document decision-making processes. That is what Adam Braus proposes in his book Leading change at work. The technique allows to clearly describe an issue, explain the relevant details, summarize metrics that will help inform the decision, and finally make and explain the decision.

Thinking that it could be helpful to me, I put the technique to the test. Here is the result:


Situation

I am consistently gaining weight.

Background

Like many other people, I started working remotely when the COVID-19 pandemic started, at the beginning of 2020. I had been careful about my nutrition and doing regular exercise for years. The uncertainty and new situation of the pandemic made it difficult to keep eating healthy, but at least I kept running regularly for some months. Later that year, around October, I got injured and completely stopped exercising for a while. I have not recovered the level of activity since.

Assessment

I’ve lost the good habits I had been practicing for years, and I need to get back on track.

Recommendation

Getting back to good habits seems impossible, so I need to get started and then progress little by little. I’ll begin exercising again regularly, even if it’s not a lot. Years ago, I only started running when I felt my body was asking for it after my hiking pace had consistently increased for some time. I think it would be a good idea to have the same approach this time. Simultaneously, I’ll try to get back to better nutrition habits. As being very strict from the beginning is hard, I’ll start by increasingly reducing sugars and other junk food.


Simple, right? Looking at it from the outside, I’m sure it can even feel stupid: are you getting fat? Stop eating and start exercising! But things are often not that easy when we have to assess and decide about ourselves, no matter if personal or professional. SBAR seems pretty intuitive to me, and it can help see some clarity when in need. Now, the next thing I need to do is drinking a glass of water instead of grabbing that piece of chocolate that suddenly showed up in my mind.

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