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Surgeons urged to communicate better

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 13/10/2016

New Zealand surgeons have been told they may need to brush up on their communication skills.

The advice from Auckland University's head of surgery, Professor Ian Bissett, follows a pilot training scheme designed to improve teamwork in the operating theatre.

The pilot, known as MORSim (Multi-disciplinary Operating Room Simulation), was developed by researchers at the university and is being rolled out to district health boards around the country.

Prof Bissett says one area of concern from the pilot was that, compared with other members of the surgical teams, none of the participating surgeons reported using new communication strategies.

This was despite the strategies being a major part of the training, he wrote in an editorial in the NZ Medical Journal.

He said surgeons generally saw themselves as the leaders in the operating room and they would be expected to have the most to gain from improved communication and teamwork.

"We, as surgeons, need to recognise that we may not be as good at communication as we think that we are," he said.

"If it can be demonstrated that this is a matter of patient safety, one hopes it will stimulate us to be more engaged in the whole process."

ACC this year agreed to fund the training project into all 20 DHBs over the next five years with $4.8 million for the first 10 DHBs and a further $4.8m in 2018.

In a paper in the NZMJ, the lead researcher, Auckland University Associate Professor Jennifer Weller, said unintended patient harm was a major contributor to poor outcomes for surgical patients.

She said it often reflected failures in teamwork.

MORSim was developed to improve teamwork and 20 operating room teams from two DHBs took part in the pilot.

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