The use of incident reports, logs and narrative-only reports is commonplace in a number of public and private sectors, including law enforcement and health care where they are used to codify different types of events for different purposes. Irrespective of the setting and purpose, though, these types of written records can play a vital role in keeping track of important events and establishing accountability for future analysis or investigation. To gain some fresh insights in this area, this paper provides an explanation concerning the purposes of and differences between incident reports, logs, and narrative only reports. A discussion concerning the five rules of narrative report writing is followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning the importance of honest, factual report writing.
Review and Discussion.
As the term implies, an "incident report" is intended to capture the important details of an untoward incident of some type. In a tertiary health care setting, for example, incident reports may be required for all cases of patients falling (whether they injure themselves or not), for medication and blood transfusion errors, fires and instances of patient abuse (Berntsen, 2004). Unlike the continuous recording of events as with logs which are described further below, incident reports are single documents that are completed at the time of an incident and then submitted to higher authorities for analysis and action. According to Berntsen (2004), in health care settings, "Incident reports are not part of the patient record and are not shared with patients. The reports are protected from legal discovery and are generally not released outside of the hospital" (p. 44). In many cases, incident reports are carefully controlled by the quality assurance and risk management services within the medical facility (Berntsen, 2004).
It is important to trend incident reports with respect to type of incident, place of occurrence, and the responsible parties.