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Teaming Up for Patient Safety: A Case Study of Social Interactions Among Surgical Team Members Open Access

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Abstract of DissertationDespite increased awareness of the link between teamwork and medical errors, and increased development of interventions aimed at improving team performance, the incidence of preventable errors in hospitals, and in the surgical environment particularly, remains high. Absent from interdisciplinary team development efforts is empirical evidence informed by the voices of surgical team members specific to their day- to- day experiences of teamwork. For this reason, a case study of interdisciplinary teamwork among Orthopedic Surgery team members was conducted from June to December 2013 to: (a) discover how teamwork behaviors are enacted in the surgical environment to affect the incidence of preventable surgical errors; and (b) understand the experience of teamwork from the perspective of surgical team members. The case study data included 37 one-on-one interviews with Orthopedic Surgery team members (including two supervisors), and observations by the researcher guided by the Observational Teamwork Assessment for Surgery (OTAS) instrument. This study finds that while mindfulness is a prerequisite to safety behaviors that are found in the surgical setting, there is a dynamic interplay between processes of collective mindfulness and traditional teamwork behaviors wherein one continuously informs, shapes, and reinforces the other. Noting contributions of the this study to practice, the opportunity exists to expand the present inquiry beyond Orthopedic Surgery to include other surgical specialties as well as non-surgical practices within the hospital and clinic environments.

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