Towards culture change in the operating theatre: embedding a complex educational intervention to improve teamwork climate

Med Teach. 2012;34(9):e635-40. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2012.687484.


Background: Changing teamwork climate in healthcare through a collective shift in attitudes and values may be a necessary precursor to establishing a positive teamwork culture, where innovations can be more readily embedded and sustained. A complex educational intervention was initiated across an entire UK Trust's surgical provision, and then sustained. Attitudes towards teamwork were measured longitudinally to examine if the intervention produced sustainable results.

Aims: The research aimed to test whether sustaining a complex education intervention to improve teamwork would result in an incremental, longitudinal improvement in attitudes and values towards teamwork. The intervention's larger aim is to progress the historical default position of multi-professional work to authentic inter-professional teamwork, as a positive values climate translates in time into behavioural change defining a safety culture.

Method: Attitudes were measured at three points across all surgical team personnel over a period of 4 years, using a validated Safety Attitudes Questionnaire with a focus on the 'teamwork climate' domain. Pre- and post-intervention 'teamwork climate' scores were compared to give a longitudinal measure as a test of sustainability.

Results: Mean 'teamwork climate' scores improved incrementally and significantly following the series of educational interventions, showing that practitioners' valuing of teamwork activity can be improved and sustained.

Conclusions: Longitudinal positive change in attitudes and values towards teamwork can be sustained, suggesting that a deliberate, designed complex intervention can shape a safety climate as a necessary prerequisite for the establishment of a sustainable safety culture.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Educational Status
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom