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Acad Psychiatry. 2015 Apr;39(2):132-8. doi: 10.1007/s40596-014-0167-y. Epub 2014 Jul 16.

Residency training in handoffs: a survey of program directors in psychiatry.

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Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York, NY, USA,



The purpose of this study was to investigate how psychiatry programs are addressing the new Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) training requirements regarding transitions in patient care effective July 1, 2011.


An anonymous online survey was distributed to program directors of general psychiatry residencies within the USA. Survey questions pertaining to the 2011 ACGME handoff requirements focused on training modalities, assessment of competence, and oversight of appropriate handoff procedures. In addition, program directors were asked to share specific challenges in implementing the new handoff regulations as well as their view on how the new regulations would impact patient care.


Of the 177 recipients, 108 completed at least part of the survey (61 % response rate). Only 11.4 % of programs indicated that they did not need to make any changes to their program in order to meet the new guidelines. Approximately a third of survey respondents reported that they did not yet have a formal curriculum in handoffs (32.4 %) and/or did not specifically assess competence at handoffs (30.5 %). Program directors cited the challenge of working with a variety of clinical settings with unique cultures, infrastructure, and policies and procedures and suggested that implementation and ownership of handoff training and assessment should be at the level of the clinical services. Despite these challenges, most program directors agreed that the new ACGME requirements would improve patient care and safety.


The high frequency of programs without established handoff curricula or competence evaluations highlights the potential value of published resources and tools to provide standardized training and assessment in handoffs. The results also underscore the importance of developing training and assessment in close collaboration with the clinical services and recognizing the need to tailor handoff communications to address the types of transitions that occur within each clinical setting.

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