Progressive independence in medicine is critical to building confidence and decisiveness in trainees. However, this can be difficult to accomplish in the strict regulatory environment of pathology.


To pilot and adopt a process whereby surgical pathology fellows independently manage a subset of cases and release preliminary reports.


Upon program approval, board-certified surgical pathology fellows were eligible for preliminary report sign-out at their discretion. Eligible cases were sent from outside institutions for confirmatory review. Preliminary reports were viewable in the electronic medical record. Safety measures were used to ensure timely release of final reports by attending pathologists.


Fellows participating in the pilot (n = 4) released 59 preliminary reports out of 101 cases reviewed (58%), with 1 potentially significant discrepancy between preliminary and final report. Turnaround time was not affected. The process was endorsed by all participants and adopted as standard practice. During the first year, eligible fellows (n = 8) released 123 preliminary reports out of 1260 cases reviewed (9.8%). There were no major diagnostic discrepancies and no effects on turnaround time. The number of preliminary reports released by each fellow was variable (range, 2–48; median, 8), likely a reflection of both external factors (number of trainees on service, volume) and trainee-specific factors (confidence, efficiency).


Fellows showed good judgment when independently managing cases, with just 1 potentially significant discrepancy out of 182 cases (<1%). No patients were adversely impacted. Use of this process varied widely among fellows and may require closer monitoring and encouragement for fellows who are tentative about releasing preliminary reports.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.