International Perfusion Association


It’s Not the Arrow, It’s the Archer: The Role of the Surgeon Leader in a Safety Driven-Era

Background: In an era where team communication and patient safety are paramount, standardized tools have been deemed critical to safe, efficient practice. In some cases-perhaps most notably in the surgical safety checklist (SSC)-these tools have been elevated as the key to safe patient care. However, effects of the SSC on patient safety in practice remain mixed. We explore the role and impact of the surgeon leader in the use of structured communication tools to understand how surgeon engagement impacts intraoperative teamwork.

Methods: Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, OR staff members (surgeons, anesthetists, nurses and perfusionists) were recruited to participate in a one-on-one semi-structured interview. The interview explored participant experiences working in the OR, focusing on the role and impact of the surgeon as leader.

Results: Engaged use of the surgical safety checklist by the attending surgeon had the potential to improve teamwork in the operating room. Surgeons who used the checklist to engage with their team and facilitate group discussion were able to avoid tensions later in the operation typically arising from lack of situation awareness and familiarity with team member experience levels. Surgeons who engaged with the SSC as more than a memory aid were able to foster a better team environment.

Conclusions: Surgeons can harness their role as leader in the operating room by engaging with structured communication tools such as the SSC to foster improved teamwork.

Keywords: Leadership; Non-technical skills; Surgery; Surgical safety checklist; Teamwork.

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