Ten years ago, I visited Auckland City Hospital as it launched the initial work to adopt the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) surgical safety checklist into its operating theatres. From the beginning, New Zealand has been involved in the design, testing and spread of a global tool to improve surgical care. Now, nearly a decade later, the forums I have just attended have shown how the work of improving care in operating theatres has spread into a national area of focus.
The WHO checklist was created to start our work and build a foundation of safety for our patients. It established the important role of teamwork and communication in providing high quality safe care.
The next steps should reinforce the work that has already been done, going beyond the checklist by adding specific training for theatre teams to improve both routine communication and communication in stressful situations. Using simulation as a tool to advance these ideas is both creative and logical. Simulation allows us to practice communication and teamwork skills away from the workplace and patients – where we can make mistakes and improve performance at very low risk.
Team training using simulation has already begun and will eventually touch district health boards across the country. The result will be higher functioning teams and better care for our patients. Maintaining the culture of safety that is growing through these efforts will be our next work as we continue to strive for the best and safest care for every patient, in every theatre across the country, every time they need us.
Author: Dr William Berry