What’s New in the Patient Safety World



March 2009      Surgical Team Training


Many of our columns have discussed teamwork, crew/cockpit resource management (CRM), communication, and handoffs. We are big advocates of the TeamSTEPPS™ program for teamwork training (see our our May 22, 2007 Patient Safety Tip of the Week “More on TeamSTEPPS™”). One of the problems we encounter in planning and implementing such team training programs, however, is measuring success of such programs. Many of the benefits of such teamwork training help the team function much better in emergency circumstances or in preventing unwanted events that are very rare to start with (eg. wrong site surgeries). So such events are likely to be absent in both pre- and post-intervention studies. Metrics of operating room efficiency can be used. But most assessments need to rely on process measures that are fairly labor-intensive to collect.


We previously noted a study by Lingard et al (Lingard 2008) that used a checklist to structure short team briefings and documented reduction in the number of communication failures.


A new study by Havlerson et al. from Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Halverson et al 2009) attempts to demonstrate the benefits of an intensive crew resource management training for all surgeons, anesthesiologists, OR nursing and ancillary personnel. The curriculum included a 4-hour training class plus some in-OR coaching. The intervention resulted in performance of a preoperative briefing in 86% of cases 2 weeks after the intervention but this fell to 66% at 6 months post-intervention. There was a modest improvement in formal announcement of intraoperative changes in staffing. There was no significant difference in timing of prophylactic antibiotic administration or case turnover times. A modest improvement in on-time first case starts may have been influenced by a concomitant intervention. A survey showed that 75% of participants had the perception that the briefings provided a better sense of teamwork. However, they noted a marked disparity in those perceptions by discipline, with nurses and anesthesiologists perceiving more benefit from the briefings than surgeons did.


This paper is definitely worth your reading. It details a whole host of lessons learned in implementing a program of this magnitude. They discuss not only the issue of metrics, but also the time and financial resources necessary, resistance to some of the concepts by some individuals, the need to get clinical leaders committed by actions rather than just words, and the issue of sustainability.




Lingard L, Regehr G, Orser B, Reznick R, Baker GR, Doran D, Espin S, Bohnen J, Whyte S. Evaluation of a Preoperative Checklist and Team Briefing Among Surgeons, Nurses, and Anesthesiologists to Reduce Failures in Communication. Arch Surg, Jan 2008; 143: 12-17




Halverson AL, Andersson JL, Anderson K, et al. Surgical Team Training. The Northwestern Memorial Hospital Experience. Arch Surg 2009; 144(2):107-112












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