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Effective Communication in the OR

Harmony Surgical Services

Effective Communication in the OR

An operating room can be a bubble walling off effective communication. The phone is the primary tool used to receive or relay information. Time consuming phone calls are single sourced in relaying and receiving details . . . not sharing pertinent messages with multiple recipients simultaneously. Modern digital media can promote efficiency in resource utilization in operating rooms.

Operating room managers rely on several methods to share general information with staff. These include morning safety huddles, emails, communication boards, weekly or monthly meetings, huddle notes in a resource book (usually at the control desk), charge nurse handoffs and even word of mouth among staff. Staff is pressured with time constraints. Once they clock in there may be a brief five minute huddle and then they are expected to be in their rooms to prepare for an on-time start leaving no time to check emails and missed huddle notes. Some nurses miss the huddle opportunity because of early start cases.

The information managers need to convey include recalls, safety alerts, policy changes, highlighting best practices, product replacements, hospital initiatives, items out of stock or backordered, equipment out for repair, social gatherings, staffing issues, vacation requests and so much more for all specialties.

Staff entering the workforce exhibit preferences in digital media to collect and retain crucial information. The efficacy of traditional communication in operating room suites is diminished in that younger staff do not assimilate information as well when written or shared orally. They prefer to receive information that is directly applicable to their immediate tasks and via digital notifications.

An important communication tool found in all operating rooms is the surgeon preference card. It functions as a recipe to guide the circulator and scrub in equipment, instruments and supplies necessary to perform the surgery with a particular surgeon. With the implementation of new technologies, processes and other advances, surgeon preferences are changing with greater frequency. Efficient processes to updating preference cards are critical to maintain the integrity of the cards. When cards are inaccurate, their integrity diminishes and nurses tend to open more sterile supplies than needed based on their lack of confidence in the cards.

With the advent of EHRs, many facilities are lagging in performance due to outdated preference cards. The mechanisms by which cards are updated through the EHRs are cumbersome, slow, poorly formatted and allow for ambiguity in card information.

Staffing shortages necessitate better dissemination of information. Nurses with little experience and traveler nurses not familiar with facility processes and policies require better resources to perform proficiently. As new technology is implemented at a rapid pace, nurses are required to acquire and retain specialized knowledge. Instantaneously available resources can support nurses with these demands.

The next step is to create preference cards that are maintained with less effort and are formatted to promote clarity. In addition, preference cards need to provide up-to-the-minute messages. With Smart Surgeon Preference Cards, notifications can be shared by those involved in a case. Managers, surgeons, nurses, vendors and ancillary staff become part of an exchange of communication . . . a chat room. Surgeons can advise nurses prior to arriving to the hospital of any deviances that may be expected. Nurses can make requests to radiology, materials management, sterile processing and others via quick clicks without ever picking up the phone. Pertinent to the procedure, safety alerts can pop up as dictated by the facility’s preferences.

Effective and efficient transmission of messages will promote efficiency, cost containment, patient safety and surgeon satisfaction and engagement. Nurses will demonstrate greater confidence and proficiency with relevant, easily accessible information.

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