Managing information, interaction and team building in nurse shift-change handovers

A case study


  • Virpi Ylänne Cardiff University
  • Michelle Aldridge-Waddon Cardiff University
  • Tereza Spilioti Cardiff University
  • Tom Bartlett University of Glasgow



activity roles, conversational goals, discourse roles, nursing, professional discourse, shift-change handovers


Whilst there is a wealth of literature on medical handovers, discourse analytic work based on recorded interactional data on these pivotal speech events in health care is less prevalent. This case study of a shift-change nursing handover at a UK hospital Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) takes a microanalytical perspective on nurses’ talk and interaction, which enables us to examine its structural and functional complexity at utterance level. Our methodological approach comprises observations, one semi-structured interview with senior nursing staff (and many informal conversations with various staff), and in total twelve audio-recordings of interactions during, and around, the twice-daily shift-change handovers. By adopting ‘a multiple goals in discourse’ perspective and the framework of activity analysis, we demonstrate the nurses’ interactional management of multiple discourse and activity roles and pursuance of goals that transcend the medically and institutionally crucial transmission of information. This shows the nurses’ orientation to the handover task as not only a structured institutionally regulated event, but also one that tolerates more spontaneous activities that can potentially contribute to team cohesion and staff well-being.

Author Biographies

Virpi Ylänne, Cardiff University

Virpi Ylänne is Senior Lecturer in Language and Communication at Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Her research interests are in interactional sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and discourse and identity in the fields of lifespan communication and institutional talk. She has published widely on e.g. relational talk in institutional discourse and media representations of ageing and older people. Address for correspondence: Centre for Language and Communication Research, ENCAP, Colum Drive, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3EU, Wales, UK. Email: [email protected]

Michelle Aldridge-Waddon, Cardiff University

Michelle Aldridge-Waddon is Reader in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University. Her research interests are in child language acquisition, communication disorders, forensic linguistics, and psycholinguistics. Her particular focus is on the linguistic experiences of vulnerable people (children, rape victims and people with a disability) and their interactions with professionals especially within the legal system. Address for correspondence: Centre for Language and Communication Research, ENCAP, Colum Drive, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3EU, Wales, UK. Email: [email protected]

Tereza Spilioti, Cardiff University

Tereza Spilioti is Reader in Language and Communication at Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy. Her research interests are in discourse and social interaction, with a focus on media and professional communication issues. She has published research related to politeness and relational work, online research ethics, and various aspects of language and digital communication. Address for correspondence: Centre for Language and Communication Research, ENCAP, Colum Drive, Cardiff University, Cardiff, CF10 3EU, Wales, UK. Email: [email protected]

Tom Bartlett, University of Glasgow

Tom Bartlett is Professor of Functional and Applied Linguistics at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Professor of Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University. His research interests are in Systemic Functional Linguistics, interactional sociolinguistics, and critical discourse analysis, particularly in the fields of community management and sustainability. Address for correspondence: Department of English Language and Linguistics, Glasgow University, Glasgow, G12 8QH, Scotland, UK. Email: [email protected]


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How to Cite

Ylänne, V., Aldridge-Waddon, M., Spilioti, T., & Bartlett, T. (2021). Managing information, interaction and team building in nurse shift-change handovers: A case study . Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 16(1), 51–75.