Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 765–769

Handoff Practices in Undergraduate Medical Education

  • Beth W. Liston
  • Kimberly M. Tartaglia
  • Daniel Evans
  • Curt Walker
  • Dario Torre
Original Research



Growing data demonstrate that inaccuracies are prevalent in current handoff practices, and that these inaccuracies contribute to medical errors. In response, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) now requires residency programs to monitor and assess resident competence in handoff communication. Given these changes, undergraduate medical education programs must adapt to these patient safety concerns.


To obtain up-to-date information regarding educational practices for medical students, the authors conducted a national survey of Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine (CDIM) members.


In June 2012, CDIM surveyed its institutional members, representing 121 of 143 Departments of Medicine in the U.S. and Canada. The section on handoffs included 12 questions designed to define the handoff education and practices of third year clerkship and fourth year sub-internship students.


Ninety-nine institutional CDIM members responded (82 %). The minority (15 %) reported a structured handoff curriculum provided during the internal medicine (IM) core clerkship, and only 37 % reported a structured handoff curriculum during the IM sub-internship. Sixty-six percent stated that third year students do not perform handoff activities. However, most respondents (93 %) reported that fourth year sub-internship students perform patient handoff activities. Only twenty-six (26 %) institutional educators in CDIM believe their current handoff curriculum is adequate.


Despite the growing literature linking poor handoffs to adverse events, few medical students are taught this competency during medical school. The common practice of allowing untrained sub-interns to perform handoffs as part of a required clerkship raises safety concerns. Evidence-based education programs are needed for handoff training.


handoffs handovers care transitions medical education medical students 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beth W. Liston
    • 1
  • Kimberly M. Tartaglia
    • 1
  • Daniel Evans
    • 2
  • Curt Walker
    • 1
  • Dario Torre
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Hospital Medicine, Department of Internal MedicineThe Ohio State University College of MedicineColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal MedicineNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Internal MedicineDrexel University College of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA

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