Attitudes to teamwork and safety in the operating theatre

Surgeon. 2006 Jun;4(3):145-51. doi: 10.1016/s1479-666x(06)80084-3.


Background: A survey was undertaken to assess surgical team members' attitudes to safety and teamwork in the operating theatre.

Method: The Operating Room Management Attitudes Questionnaire (ORMAQ) measures attitudes to leadership, teamwork, stress and fatigue and error. A version of the ORMAQ was distributed to surgical teams in 17 hospitals in Scotland. A total of 352 responses were analysed, 138 from consultant surgeons, 93 from trainee surgeons and 121 from theatre nurses.

Results: Respondents generally demonstrated positive attitudes to behaviours associated with effective teamwork and safety. Attitudes indicating a belief in personal invulnerability to stress and fatigue were evident in both nurses and surgeons. Consultant surgeons had more positive views on the quality of surgical leadership and communication in theatre than trainees and theatre nurses. While the ubiquity of human error was well recognised, attitudes to error management strategies (incident reporting, procedural compliance) suggest that they may not be fully functioning across hospitals. While theatre staff placed a clear priority on patient safety against other business objectives (e.g. waiting lists, cost cutting), not all of them felt that this was endorsed by their hospital management.

Conclusions: Attitude surveys can provide useful diagnostic information relating to behaviour and safety in surgical units. Discrepancies were found between the views of consultants compared with trainees and nurses, in relation to leadership and teamwork. While attitudes to safety were generally positive, there were several areas where theatre staff did not seem to appreciate the impact of psychological factors on technical performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Male
  • Safety*
  • Scotland
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative*