Safer surgery activities: Ideas to improve teamwork and communication

Reducing perioperative harm is the focus of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s national patient safety campaign Open for better care from April to end September 2014, in partnership with First, Do No Harm in the Northern Region. As part of this focus, the Commission is promoting evidence-based interventions to reduce perioperative harm, centred on improving teamwork and communication within surgical teams.

A series of suggested activities has been devised to help teams drive improvement and change – these are being progressively published here. The following activities are commonly used to tap frontline knowledge and gather information in the workplace. The aim is to generate ideas for solving problems by involving teams and clinicians in different ways of thinking. Activities include:

1. TRIZ: Designing to fail – safely identify and stop counterproductive activities and behaviours, and make space for innovation
2. Crowdsourcing ideas for change – 25 gets you 10 – helps a large crowd generate and sort ideas for action in 30 minutes or less
3. 5 Whys analysis – finding the root cause – a simple problem-solving technique to quickly get to the root of a problem
4. How do they do that? Identifying positive deviants – variation is a goldmine for thinking of ways to change your group’s practices and culture
5. Simulation and role play exercises.

When trying these activities for the first time, consider starting with a small group of trusted colleagues to gain confidence and support. For more information and ideas see: