Mixed surgical teams lead to less medical error

Diverse surgical leadership promotes co-operation and decreases conflict

SURGEONS are people, and people are animals, and animals often fight. Which is why Frans de Waal, an expert on animal behaviour, has turned his attention to the operating theatre to see if the methods he honed studying chimpanzees might be used to improve surgical practice.

Dr de Waal—and, more particularly Laura Jones, his colleague at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who did the actual field work—used those methods to construct ethograms of surgical teams. An ethogram is a list of all the types of behaviour that occur within a group of animals. To draw up these lists Dr Jones observed interactions between 400 doctors, nurses and technicians during 200 operations. She logged all the non-technical communications she spotted, and classified them as “co-operative” (likely to lead to better surgical outcomes), “conflictive” (potentially jeopardising patient safety) or neutral. Read more…

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