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N Z Med J. 2007 Oct 26;120(1264):U2778.

Passing the buck: clinical handovers at a tertiary hospital.

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Auckland District Health Board, Auckland.



To survey house officers and nurses regarding timing, structure and content of clinical handover and compare these results. Secondary aims included the development of an 'on-call' sheet and the development of guidelines for handovers from the results collated.


60 house officers (post graduate years 1-3) and 60 nurses working at Auckland City Hospital were asked to complete a survey covering various aspects of clinical handover in their current department.


This study showed that nurses have more handovers than house officers in a 24-hour period. Nurses had an average of 3.2 handovers compared with the 1.2 handovers reported by house officers. Nurses rated their handovers as 'good', with a mean score of 7.8/10, while house officers rated the standard of their handovers as only 'average', with a mean score of 5.1/10. This was noted to be a statistically significant difference with a p-value of 0.01. Our study found that 60.9% of house officers reported that they had encountered a problem at least seven times in their most recent clinical rotation that they could directly attribute to a poor handover. However, nurses reported a much lower incidence of problems relating to poor handover standards, with 37.5% of this group indicating that they had experienced a clinical problem with a patient related to a nursing handover.


In this study, we identified that health professionals perceive that clinical problems can be attributed to poor clinical handover. The majority of respondents in the study felt that an effective handover system should include a set location for handover, a standardised 'on-call' sheet and training related to handovers.

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