Practicing handoffs early: Applying a clinical framework in the anatomy laboratory

Michelle D. Lazarus, Jason A. Dos Santos, Paul M. Haidet, Tiffany L. Whitcomb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The anatomy laboratory provides an ideal environment for the integration of clinical contexts as the willed-donor is often regarded as a student's "first patient." This study evaluated an innovative approach to peer teaching in the anatomy laboratory using a clinical handoff context. The authors introduced the "Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation" (SBAR) handoff framework within the anatomy laboratory. Study participants included 147 second-year medical students completing the head and neck portion of an anatomy course. The authors used mixed methods to evaluate the impact of the anatomic SBAR on the student anatomy laboratory experience. Qualitative analysis of student evaluations revealed three themes which emerged from students' summaries of their anatomic handoff experiences: Learning-by-teaching; Acquiescing to doing more with less; and Distrust of the peer handoff process. All the themes demonstrated that the anatomic handoff encouraged students' focus on the knowledge preparation and reflection. Closed question analysis suggested that that students' perceptions of handoff usefulness were tied to deeper learning strategies. The handoff provided a mechanism for promoting students' focus on anatomical relationships and facilitated students' learning of transferable clinical skills. Together, these results suggest that the introduction of a handoff process in anatomy education provided both a mechanism for learning anatomy and a unique opportunity for early exposure to an essential clinical skill. This clinical and basic science integration may serve as a vertical integration thread which can be woven throughout undergraduate medical education. Future study will focus on exploring the long-term impacts and learning outcomes of this integration. Anat Sci Educ 9: 476-487.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-487
Number of pages12
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • anatomical sciences
  • anatomy laboratory
  • clinical context
  • communication skills
  • educational methodology
  • gross anatomy education
  • handoffs
  • medical education
  • nontechnical skills

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