Building continuity in handovers with shorter residency duty hours

BMC Med Educ. 2014;14 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S16. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-14-S1-S16. Epub 2014 Dec 11.


As junior doctors work shorter hours in light of concerns about the harmful effects of fatigue on physician performance and health, it is imperative to consider how to ensure that patient safety is not compromised by breaks in the continuity of care. By reconceptualizing handover as a necessary bridge to continuity, and hence to safer patient care, the model of continuity-enhanced handovers has the potential to allay fears and improve patient care in an era of increasing fragmentation. "Continuity-enhanced handovers" differ from traditional handovers in several key aspects, including quality of information transferred, greater professional responsibility of senders and receivers, and a different philosophy of "coverage." Continuity during handovers is often achieved through scheduling and staffing to maximize the provision of care by members of the primary team who have first-hand knowledge of patients. In this way, senders and receivers often engage in intra-team handovers, which can result in the accumulation of greater common ground or shared understanding of the patients they collectively care for through a series of repeated interactions. However, because maximizing team continuity is not always possible, other strategies such as cultivating high-performance teams, making handovers active learning opportunities, and monitoring performance during handovers are also important. Medical educators and clinicians should work toward adopting and testing principles of continuity-enhanced handovers in their local practices and share successes so that innovation and learning may spread easily among institutions and practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Continuity of Patient Care / organization & administration
  • Continuity of Patient Care / standards*
  • Continuity of Patient Care / trends
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration
  • Internship and Residency / standards*
  • Internship and Residency / trends
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / trends
  • Occupational Health / standards*
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration
  • Patient Care Team / standards*
  • Patient Care Team / trends
  • Patient Handoff / standards*
  • Patient Handoff / trends
  • Patient Safety*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / standards*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / trends
  • Physician-Patient Relations