Skip to Main Content


“All the world’s a stage, and All the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts begin seven ages.”

William Shakespeare

Chapter Objectives

Describe the three different types of transitions that necessitate attention to knowledge management, and ways to address handoffs for each.

Provide guidelines for prioritizing content areas for knowledge transfer.

Describe approaches for “letting go” and ways to prepare oneself and others for transition.

Understand the “how” and the “what” that guide effective knowledge transfer, as well as how generational preferences may inform effective approaches.

This chapter focuses on improving our preparedness for work transitions that will benefit from a handoff of knowledge and wisdom. To guide you toward this level of preparedness, we provide the following fundamental questions for you to consider and explore:

  • How do we let go when it’s time? How can we help others let go?

  • Who (besides us) cares about our work?

  • How do we determine what the next generation or successor needs?

  • What things should we not worry about passing on?

  • Is it possible to quantify knowledge for a handoff?

To enrich the responses, we interviewed five accomplished healthcare professionals to share their experiences and recommendations. These foundational questions, which we also asked our interviewees, may be ones we intuitively (and sometimes unconsciously) ask ourselves, with hopes that this chapter will give them voice.


During a recent healthcare experience, I became focused on the ease with which caregivers shared and received information about my history and my current condition. They used the electronic medical record (EMR) and other technology to track day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month changes in my status. I realized that these nurses and other caregivers had mastered the handoff of information and knowledge, and the dynamic nature of my situation required them to share seamlessly. The seamless handoffs gave me confidence that my treatment was supported by documentation and subjective reports about my progress with others on the team.

Just like the members of my healthcare team, leaders are tasked with sharing information with colleagues that will provide the background and context for decision-making and ensure a productive workplace. However, our competency in effectively handing off knowledge to new leaders is much more challenged (as this chapter illustrates), and the identification of best practices to address today’s challenges is clearly still evolving. As healthcare transformation occurs at a more rapid pace than any time in history, the ability to transfer essential knowledge has become more critical, and it affects patient care on a more global scale.

Research on knowledge management and knowledge transfer is relatively new, as both fields began to receive focused attention in the early 1990s. The questions of what information ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.