Barriers and enablers to effective interprofessional teamwork in the operating room: A qualitative study using the Theoretical Domains Framework

PLoS One. 2021 Apr 22;16(4):e0249576. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0249576. eCollection 2021.


Background: Effective teamwork is critical for safe, high-quality care in the operating room (OR); however, teamwork interventions have not consistently resulted in the expected gains for patient safety or surgical culture. In order to optimize OR teamwork in a targeted and evidence-based manner, it is first necessary to conduct a comprehensive, theory-informed assessment of barriers and enablers from an interprofessional perspective.

Methods: This qualitative study was informed by the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Volunteer, purposive and snowball sampling were conducted primarily across four sites in Ontario, Canada and continued until saturation was reached. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and de-identified. Directed content analysis was conducted in duplicate using the TDF as the initial coding framework. Codes were then refined whereby similar codes were grouped into larger categories of meaning within each TDF domain, resulting in a list of domain-specific barriers and enablers.

Results: A total of 66 OR healthcare professionals participated in the study (19 Registered Nurses, two Registered Practical Nurses, 17 anaesthesiologists, 26 surgeons, two perfusionists). The most frequently identified teamwork enablers included people management, shared definition of teamwork, communication strategies, positive emotions, familiarity with team members, and alignment of teamwork with professional role. The most frequently identified teamwork barriers included others' personalities, gender, hierarchies, resource issues, lack of knowledge of best practices for teamwork, negative emotions, conflicting norms and perceptions across professions, being unfamiliar with team members, and on-call/night shifts.

Conclusions: We identified key factors influencing OR teamwork from an interprofessional perspective using a theoretically informed and systematic approach. Our findings reveal important targets for future interventions and may ultimately increase their effectiveness. Specifically, achieving optimal teamwork in the OR may require a multi-level intervention that addresses individual, team and systems-level factors with particular attention to complex social and professional hierarchies.

Grant support

This study was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR): #384512. Dr. Boet was supported by The Ottawa Hospital Anaesthesia Alternate Funds Association.