November 18, 2017 |
Focus on Communication in TeamSTEPPS Surgical Safety Initiative
January 28, 2014  | 

Springfield, OR — Improving communication among members of surgical teams has been shown to improve outcomes for patients. The surgical staff at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend has begun training in a nationally recognized surgical safety initiative designed to enhance operating room communication. Known as TeamSTEPPS, the program uses communications tactics such as call backs, handoffs, briefings and debriefings among all members of the surgical team to optimize clinical outcomes for patients. 

“Lack of communication is the primary source of complications in operating room procedures,” said Andrea Halliday, MD, PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center Patient Safety Officer. “The TeamSTEPPS system builds upon existing operating protocols with communication tactics that strengthen the team dynamic through verbal communication, engagement and the establishment of a shared mental model.” 

TeamSTEPPS communications tactics foster dialogue and consistency through these basic practices: 

  • Call backs: When a member of the surgical team makes a statement or request, a “call back” of that statement or request from the appropriate member of the surgical team ensures that the message has been received and will be acted upon.
  • Handoffs: When a patient is transferred from one care setting to another, a designated member of the surgical team will refer to a checklist of all pertinent patient-care items, including their procedure, diagnosis, name, condition, allergies, concerns and post-op plan, to ensure that all key patient-care information is noted and observed throughout the patient’s entire spectrum of care.
  • Briefings and debriefings: Before the start of a procedure, the surgical team will take a moment to check in as a team and go over the planned operation to make sure all team members understand the operative plan, can discuss any safety concerns, and have had a chance to ask questions. Following the operation, the team confirms the procedure, the surgical counts, what specimens were removed, the blood loss and the postoperative plan.  Any recommendations for process improvement are recorded on a debriefing form.    

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