PURPOSE: To develop, teach, and supervise a structured process for handing off patient care and to evaluate its effect on interns' knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward handoffs. METHOD: The authors developed a formal process for interns on the medicine ward services to hand off patient care at their teaching hospital. In July 2006, attending physicians began to teach and supervise the process. To evaluate the entire structured handoff program (the process, teaching, and supervision), interns were surveyed on the first day and during the last week of each of their month long rotations. RESULTS: From June through December 2006, the authors obtained 137 of 144 surveys (95% response) they had administered to 72 consecutive interns rotating through the hospital. During the first three months of the academic year, first-year interns had little confidence in their ability to hand off patients, make contingency plans, or perform read-backs when they began their rotations, but after exposure to the handoff program, their perceptions of these abilities increased (all P < .05). Eighty-five percent of the interns felt that attending supervision of the handoff process was useful or extremely useful, but only 51% viewed the lecture/small-group session about handoffs as useful. CONCLUSIONS: The structured handoff program improved the participating interns' perceptions of their knowledge of the handoff process and their ability to transfer the care of their patients effectively. The formal program for teaching handoffs, that included attendings' supervision of the process, was well received.
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