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Am J Med Qual. 2018 Mar/Apr;33(2):140-146. doi: 10.1177/1062860617719128. Epub 2017 Jul 20.

Patient Handoff Education: Are Medical Schools Catching Up?

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1 The University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL.
2 Pennsylvania State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA.
3 Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA.


Communication errors during shift-to-shift handoffs are a leading cause of preventable adverse events. Nevertheless, handoff skills are variably taught at medical schools. The authors administered questionnaires on handoffs to interns during orientation. Questions focused on medical school handoff education, experiences, and perceptions. The majority (546/718) reported having some form of education on handoffs during medical school, with 48% indicating this was 1 hour or less. Most respondents (98%) reported that they believe patients experience adverse events because of inadequate handoffs, and more than one third had witnessed a patient safety issue. Results show that medical school graduates are not receiving adequate handoff training. Yet graduates are expected to conduct safe patient handoffs at the start of residency. Given that ineffective handoffs pose a significant patient safety risk, medical school graduates should have a baseline competency in handoff skills. This will require medical schools to develop, implement, and study handoff education.


communication error; entrustable professional activity; handoffs; medical education; transitions of care

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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