Learner handover: Perspectives and recommendations from the front-line

Perspect Med Educ. 2020 Aug 18. doi: 10.1007/s40037-020-00601-4. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Current medical education models increasingly rely on longitudinal assessments to document learner progress over time. This longitudinal focus has re-kindled discussion regarding learner handover-where assessments are shared across supervisors, rotations, and educational phases, to support learner growth and ease transitions. The authors explored the opinions of, experiences with, and recommendations for successful implementation of learner handover among clinical supervisors.

Methods: Clinical supervisors from five postgraduate medical education programs at one institution completed an online questionnaire exploring their views regarding learner handover, specifically: potential benefits, risks, and suggestions for implementation. Survey items included open-ended and numerical responses. The authors used an inductive content analysis approach to analyze the open-ended questionnaire responses, and descriptive and correlational analyses for numerical data.

Results: Seventy-two participants completed the questionnaire. Their perspectives varied widely. Suggested benefits of learner handover included tailored learning, improved assessments, and enhanced patient safety. The main reported risk was the potential for learner handover to bias supervisors' perceptions of learners, thereby affecting the validity of future assessments and influencing the learner's educational opportunities and well-being. Participants' suggestions for implementation focused on who should be involved, when and for whom it should occur, and the content that should be shared.

Discussion: The diverse opinions of, and recommendations for, learner handover highlight the necessity for handover to maximize learning potential while minimizing potential harms. Supervisors' suggestions for handover implementation reveal tensions between assessment-of and for-learning.

Keywords: Assessment; Competency-based medical education; Forward-feeding; Learner handover; Workplace-based assessment.