Integration of a formalized handoff system into the surgical curriculum: resident perspectives and early results

Arch Surg. 2011 Jan;146(1):89-93. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.2010.294.


Hypothesis: The Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation model (SBAR) provides an excellent framework for communication in daily resident handoffs.

Objective: To evaluate implementation of SBAR into the surgical curriculum.

Design: A curriculum using video and role-play scenarios to augment a didactic lecture on SBAR was implemented for general surgery residents. Resident assessment was achieved via an anonymous survey administered after training. Outcome was evaluated by assessing sentinel events and resident order entry 30 days before and after training. Surgical subspecialty resident order entries were used as controls. Duplicated, cancelled, and wrong patient orders were attributed to failed communication.

Setting: Academic department of surgery.

Participants: Forty-five general surgery residents at our institution.

Results: Survey response rate was 100%. Poor communication was identified as the leading cause of handoff failure, with nurse-to-resident handoffs considered the most problematic. Overall, the curriculum was well received. Outcomes analysis demonstrated no difference in sentinel events. A 2.3% decrease in pretraining and posttraining order entry errors (14.5% vs 12.2%; P = .003) was demonstrated. No difference was demonstrated in controls who did not undergo SBAR training (12.9% vs 13.6%; P = .47).

Conclusions: Most of the residents indicate that the SBAR curriculum addressed frequently encountered communication issues and taught clinically beneficial communication skills. The identified specific communication deficiencies will direct future curriculum goals. The SBAR model is an effective and valuable tool to standardize communication. Early outcomes analysis demonstrates a decrease in order entry errors after training. Sentinel events are infrequent and will require long-term evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Continuity of Patient Care*
  • Curriculum*
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Internship and Residency*