Doctors can trust their gut

photo: Rodnae Productions via

Handing over patient information from one healthcare worker to another is an essential and important process for the continuity of care and safety of a patient.

The question is, how does a clinician receiving the information know that they are obtaining a complete and accurate picture, particularly if the person transferring the information is a medical student, without years of experience?

Associate Professor Malcolm Moore and colleagues from the Australian National University Medical School, Rural Clinical School set out to answer this question.

 “A ‘good’ handover must be accurate and safe, however, these can’t be determined unless the receiver knows the true condition of the patient. Where this isn’t immediately known, the assessment of ‘quality’ in the workplace is based on a global assessment of multiple factors including the structure and level of detail provided during the handover process, how well that information is organised and communicated between the two parties, and the clinical reasoning of the person providing and receiving the information,” explains Associate Professor Moore.  

To determine the accuracy of the patient details handed over, using a checklist approach, clinical supervisors were asked to make a global assessment of the situation based on the information they acquired from the medical student but prior to engaging with the patient. Then, after the clinician had assessed the patient they were asked to rate the accuracy and safety of the handover provided by the student.

The research found that clinical supervisors can generally trust their perception or instinct about the quality and accuracy of the information they receive during the handover, making a global assessment of the situation a very important part of the handover process. These findings also indicate that medical students are capable of providing a safe handover as part of a care team.

To learn more about how the study was conducted, you can read the paper here.