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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41810. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041810. Epub 2012 Jul 27.

Investigating the scope of resident patient care handoffs within neurosurgery.

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  • 1Department of Neurologic Surgery, Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minnesota, United States of America.



Handoffs are defined as verbal and written communications during patient care transitions. With the passage of recent ACMGE work hour rules further limiting the hours interns can spend in the hospital, many fear that more handoffs will occur, putting patient safety at risk. The issue of handoffs has not been studied in the neurosurgical literature.


A validated, 20-question online-survey was sent to neurosurgical residents in all 98 accredited U.S. neurosurgery programs. Survey results were analyzed using tabulations.


449 surveys were completed yielding a 56% response rate. 63% of neurosurgical residents surveyed had not received formal instruction in what constitutes an effective handoff; 24% believe there is high to moderate variability among their co-residents in terms of the quality of the handoff provided; 55% experience three or more interruptions during handoffs on average. 90% of neurosurgical residents surveyed say that handoff most often occurs in a quiet, private area and 56% report a high level of comfort for knowing the potential acute, critical issues affecting a patient when receiving a handoff.


There needs to be more focused education devoted to learning effective patient-care handoffs in neurosurgical training programs. Increasingly, handing off a patient adequately and safely is becoming a required skill of residency.

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