Mobilising a team for the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist

My new study is out today in the BMJ Quality & Safety.


Background. One challenge identified in the Surgical Safety Checklist literature is the inconsistent participation of operating teams in the safety checks. Less is known about how teams move from preparatory activities into a huddle, and how communication underpins this gathering. The objective of this study is to examine the ways of mobilising teams and the level of participation in the safety checks.

Methods. Team participation in time-out and sign-out was examined from a video corpus of 20 elective surgical operations. Teams included surgeons, nurses and anaesthetists in a UK teaching hospital, scheduled to work in the operations observed. Qualitative video analysis of team participation was adapted from the study of social interaction.

Results. The key aspects of team mobilisation were the timing of the checklist, the distribution of personnel in the theatre and the instigation practices used. These were interlinked in bringing about the participation outcomes, the number of people huddling up for time-out and sign-out. Timing seemed appropriate when most personnel were present in the theatre suite; poor timing was marked by personnel dispersed through the theatre. Participation could be managed using the instigation practices, which included or excluded participation within teams. The factors hindering full-team participation at time-out and sign-out were the overlapping (eg, anaesthetic and nursing) responsibilities and the use of exclusive instigation practices.

Conclusions. The implementation of the Surgical Safety Checklist represents a global concern in patient safety research. Yet how teams huddle for the checks has to be acknowledged as an issue in its own right. Appropriate mobilisation practices can help bringing fuller teams together, which has direct relevance to team training.