Resident duty hour restrictions have resulted in more frequent patient care handoffs, increasing the need for improved quality of residents’ sign-out process.
To characterize resident sign-out process and identify effective strategies for quality improvement.
Mixed methods analysis of resident sign-out, including a survey of resident views, prospective observation and characterization of 64 consecutive sign-out sessions, and an appreciative-inquiry approach for quality improvement.
Internal medicine residents (n = 89).
An appreciative inquiry process identified five exemplar residents and their peers’ effective sign-out strategies.
Surveys were analyzed and observations of sign-out sessions were characterized for duration and content. Common effective strategies were identified from the five exemplar residents using an appreciative inquiry approach.
The survey identified wide variations in the methodology of sign-out. Few residents reported that laboratory tests (13%) or medications (16%) were frequently accurate. The duration of observed sign-outs averaged 134 ±73 s per patient for the day shift (6 p.m.) sign-out compared with 59 ± 41 s for the subsequent night shift (8 p.m.) sign-out for the same patients (p = 0.0002). Active problems (89% vs 98%, p = 0.013), treatment plans (52% vs 73%, p = 0.004), and laboratory test results (56% vs 80%, p = 0.002) were discussed less commonly during night compared with day sign-out. The five residents voted best at sign-out (mean vote 11 ± 1.6 vs 1.7 ± 2.3) identified strategies for sign-out: (1) discussing acutely ill patients first, (2) minimizing discussion on straightforward patients, (3) limiting plans to active issues, (4) using a systematic approach, and (5) limiting error-prone chart duplication.
Resident views toward sign-out are diverse, and accuracy of written records may be limited. Consecutive sign-outs are associated with degradation of information. An appreciative-inquiry approach capitalizing on exemplar residents was effective at creating standards for sign-out.
sign-out handoff of care continuity of patient care internship and residency communication patient transfer medical errors