I have been a nurse for eons. Sometimes I feel I go back to Flo’s era. Even though I have been retired for ten years, I try to keep current with nursing/health issues. One evening two weeks ago I attended a TeamStepps workshop sponsored by the large teaching hospital where I volunteer. The purpose of the seminar was to promote teamwork among the hospital staff to ensure patient safety. As a member of an advisory committee, I was encouraged to attend in order to learn about new initiatives at the hospital. I walked out of the workshop four hours later wondering if I had dreamt the whole scenario.
There were about 50 folks in attendance. I approached my assigned table where one woman was seated, a nurse who worked in the operating room. Attendance was mandatory, she told me. She was paid for her time. A few minutes later a skinny guy in scrubs plopped down next to me and said, “What the hell is this all about?” I answered his question by introducing myself. He was an orthopedic surgeon, as were two other men who later joined our table.
Would any of the three last the whole four-hour session? I braced myself for a lot of muttering and antisocial behavior. In my biased mind, orthopedic surgeons stand out as the most paternalistic of all the medical specialists.
A second nurse and a cardiologist rounded out our group.
After we finished introducing ourselves, I realized most worked in surgical areas (The cardiologist inserted stents, a surgical procedure that he performed in the OR).
What followed was not what I expected. The main leaders, one older orthopedic surgeon, who asked to be called by his first name, and two nurses, led the group though team building exercises, videos and discussions. The nurses, OR techs and doctors in the audience, including those at my table, participated. To my surprise, my table built the highest Lego tower demonstrating our superior use of “team work.”
What the workshop demonstrated to me was that the team had replaced the doctor as “Captain of the Ship.” Or at least team members had a say in what happened at the bedside, or in the OR. All professionals were encouraged to speak up if they saw something that would negatively affect a patient outcome. In fact, a bright yellow card to wear hidden behind the staff’s nametag was inserted into our handout folder. It said “I Need Clarity.” It could be flashed at the attending/surgeon, or any team member, so as not to cause a patient anxiety. The team would then go out of earshot of the patient and family to discuss the potential problem. Every team member’s input was important.
As I walked to the parking garage at the end of the class, I wanted to call my old nursing school classmates so they could appreciate along with me how far physicians had come in becoming team players. My classmates and I came from the old school when nurses stood when doctors entered a room. We endured prima donna surgeons that had temper tantrums and threw instruments in the OR when they were angry. The doctors I had just observed took part in an effort to discard old actions and engage in team building behaviors.
Well, things were changing. Okay it’s only one workshop, but it so impressed me.
I am going back for the second half this week. Let you know if I had been dreaming.