Original Publication
Open Access

Safe Transitions for Every Patient

Published: May 3, 2011 | 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.8291

Included in this publication:

  • MCW STEP Instructor's Guide Safe Transitions for Every Patient V6.docx
  • MCW STEP Annotated Workshop Presentation and Directions.pptx

To view all publication components, extract (i.e., unzip) them from the downloaded .zip file.

Editor's Note: This publication predates our implementation of the Educational Summary Report in 2016 and thus displays a different format than newer publications.


Ineffective care transitions result in medical errors and compromised patient care. While improving trainees’ ability to provide safe care transitions is a vital element in improving quality and safety of patient care, most of the current efforts available focus on the hospital perspective. Our goal was to develop a brief, 2-hour session that emphasizes effective communication of information between providers across care settings and disciplines for every patient. A PowerPoint presentation, with annotated speaker notes, provides definitions and describes the societal and personal impact of ineffective care transitions. Next, students are taught a care transitions communication mnemonic (PRIMARY) that is useful across providers/care settings. Finally, students participate in a faculty-facilitated small-group discussion featuring student-generated examples of care transitions and specific exercises applying the PRIMARY mnemonic to generate a dialogue between sender and receiver using incidents with a structured feedback worksheet. A seven-item quiz, along with learner and facilitator evaluation forms, completes the packet. Designed for medical students, the session is adaptable to any health professions discipline. Learners and facilitators rated the session highly, stating that objectives were achieved and that overall time, balance of small-group and large-group exercises, and use of the mnemonic were all valuable. The significance of this workshop is its emphasis on patient care and safety as students experience increasing levels of involvement in the communication of information for a patient care transition.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners will be able to:

  1. Define transitions of care.
  2. List major components of safe transitions.
  3. Describe the crucial role that effective transitions have on safe and high-quality patient care.
  4. Use the PRIMARY mnemonic to systematically prepare and convey a patient transition to a colleague.
  5. Identify at least one thing a student can do to enhance effective care transitions.

Author Information

  • Paul Koch: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Nancy Havas, MD: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Emily Densmore, MD: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Staci Young, PhD: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Laura Currey, MS: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Karen Marcdante, MD: Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Deborah Simpson, PhD: Medical College of Wisconsin

None to report.

This project was partially funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - HRSA - Primary Care Faculty Development Grant #2 D55 HP 00093 (Deborah Simpson, PhD - PI). 

Prior Presentations
Havas N, Nelson K, Densmore E, Klehm D, Simpson D; Primary Care STEP Collaborative. A step closer: a curriculum for primary care transitions in patient care. Poster presented at: ACGME Annual Meeting; March 4-7, 2010; Nashville, TN (received Marvin R. Dunn Posters Session Certificate of Recognition).

Simpson D, Marcdante K, Morzinski J; STEP Collaborative. Approaching faculty development as service learning STEP program. Poster presented at: AAMC Central Group on Educational Affairs Annual Meeting; April 8-10, 2010; Chicago, IL (received 2010 Innovations in Medical Education CME Poster Award).


Koch P, Havas N, Densmore E, et al. Safe transitions for every patient. MedEdPORTAL. 2011;7:8291. https://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.8291