Home Case Studies Health Care Sector Learning Non-Technical Skills Might Save a Patient’s Life

Learning Non-Technical Skills Might Save a Patient’s Life

5 min read

What do high-performing teams have in common?

According to TeamSTEPPS, they

  1. Are responsible for ensuring that team members are sharing information, monitoring situational cues, resolving conflicts, and helping each other when needed;
  2. Manage resources to ensure the team’s performance;
  3. Facilitate team actions by communicating through information exchange sessions, such as after-action reviews;
  4. Develop norms for information sharing; and
  5. Ensure that team members are aware of situational changes to plans

Good quality operating room leadership leads to decreased errors, reduced costs, improved safety, and increased compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs). Despite that, 47% of surgeons believe decisions of the “leader” should not be questioned, as did the crew members of Captain van Zanten. Contrast that with the current 7% of pilots, a smaller percentage after changes were implemented following the Tenerife crash.

One solution for the 47% is to send your surgeons to Scotland for training. Another is for them to take the course at the annual American College of Surgeons meeting, where there is often a workshop on this topic. The book, Enhancing Surgical Performance, offers a detailed road map for “structuring observation, rating, and feedback of surgeons’ behaviors in the operating theatre.” Anyone involved in surgery—surgeons, nurses, residents, students—will learn what to look for and how to perform to increase staff well-being and decrease patients’ deaths and errors in the surgical suite. I use this assessment with my surgeon coaching clients as I observe them in the operating room with their teams. The experience changes how they approach the surgery process. Becoming adept at non-technical skills literally changes lives for the better—patients’ lives.

As the great sage Yoda said,

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

1. Industrial Psychology Research Centre, University of Aberdeen (all handbooks)
2. Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (NOTSS details)
3. Intercollegiate Surgical Curriculum Project (NOTSS handbook)


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