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Importance of Surgical Teams Voicing Safety Concerns in Operating Rooms


Arjun Srinivasan, MD, Associate Director, Healthcare-Associated Infection Prevention Programs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stresses the importance of surgical teams speaking up if they have safety concerns regarding procedure in operating rooms.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“For surgical teams, when they think that something is going wrong, the most important thing is to stop; if something is not going the way that you think it should be going, if there’s a concern about the safety of the procedure, you should pause. Obviously in the middle of a surgery, you can’t just call the thing off, but there is an opportunity to pause [and say,] ‘Just hang on a second. I’m not happy with the way that’s occurring, let’s take a quick second and make sure that we’re doing things exactly right.’

We may want to regroup very quickly and make sure that we’re following the procedures correctly. The good thing in most operating rooms is that there’s a lot of experience; surgery is very, very safe, so, we have very, very good systems in place. Surgical teams are some of the best at doing that, and they do the same thing; they do it the right way every single time. And there’s usually enough recognition, because people are so savvy because they do this all the time that when things are not quite right, usually somebody recognizes it.

The key is for every member of the team to feel empowered to speak up, to say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t think that’s quite right. That doesn’t look like the way we normally do it. Can we stop for a second, and get back on the right track?’”
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