The surgical debrief: Just another checklist or an instrument to drive cultural change?

Am J Surg. 2022 Jan;223(1):120-125. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2021.07.043. Epub 2021 Jul 29.


Introduction: Post-procedural debrief is recommended to improve patient safety. We examined operating room (OR) clinicians' perceptions of the impact of a multi-disciplinary debrief on OR culture.

Methods: A survey was administered to 182 OR clinicians at a major academic medical center. Attitudes toward the surgical debrief and its effect on patient safety and OR culture were evaluated.

Results: Majority of clinicians (58.2%) believed creating a culture of safety in the OR was a shared care team responsibility, however, surgical attendings and trainees were more likely to assign this responsibility to the surgical attending. Few circulating nurses and trainees felt comfortable initiating a surgical debrief. Overall clinicians agreed that a debrief would impact both patient safety outcomes and OR culture.

Conclusions: Clinicians felt implementation of a surgical debrief would positively affect the OR culture of safety by improving interdisciplinary communication and influencing the power hierarchy that exists in many ORs.

Keywords: Communication; Culture; Debriefing process; Operating room; Quality improvement; Surgical debrief; Surgical safety checklist.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Checklist / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Male
  • Operating Rooms / organization & administration*
  • Operating Rooms / standards
  • Organizational Culture
  • Patient Care Team / organization & administration*
  • Patient Care Team / standards
  • Patient Safety*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Surveys and Questionnaires