Team communications in surgery - creating a culture of safety

J Interprof Care. 2013 Sep;27(5):387-93. doi: 10.3109/13561820.2013.784243. Epub 2013 May 14.


As a key department within a healthcare organisation, the operating room is a hazardous environment, where the consequences of errors are high, despite the relatively low rates of occurrence. Team performance in surgery is increasingly being considered crucial for a culture of safety. The aim of this study was to describe team communication and the ways it fostered or threatened safety culture in surgery. Ethnography was used, and involved a 6-month fieldwork period of observation and 19 interviews with 24 informants from nursing, anaesthesia and surgery. Data were collected during 2009 in the operating rooms of a tertiary care facility in Queensland, Australia. Through analysis of the textual data, three themes that exemplified teamwork culture in surgery were generated: "building shared understandings through open communication"; "managing contextual stressors in a hierarchical environment" and "intermittent membership influences team performance". In creating a safety culture in a healthcare organisation, a team's optimal performance relies on the open discussion of teamwork and team expectation, and significantly depends on how the organisational culture promotes such discussions.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Patient Safety*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Queensland
  • Tertiary Care Centers