Handoffs: Transitions of Care for Children in the Emergency Department

Pediatrics. 2016 Nov;138(5):e20162680. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2680.


Transitions of care (ToCs), also referred to as handoffs or sign-outs, occur when the responsibility for a patient's care transfers from 1 health care provider to another. Transitions are common in the acute care setting and have been noted to be vulnerable events with opportunities for error. Health care is taking ideas from other high-risk industries, such as aerospace and nuclear power, to create models of structured transition processes. Although little literature currently exists to establish 1 model as superior, multiorganizational consensus groups agree that standardization is warranted and that additional work is needed to establish characteristics of ToCs that are associated with clinical or practice outcomes. The rationale for structuring ToCs, specifically those related to the care of children in the emergency setting, and a description of identified strategies are presented, along with resources for educating health care providers on ToCs. Recommendations for development, education, and implementation of transition models are included.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Handoff / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Transfer / organization & administration*
  • Pediatrics / organization & administration*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Societies, Medical
  • United States