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Archive Staff & Patient Safety 2019

Operate Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Q&A with Robert Hackett, MD, anesthesiologist and inspiration of the #TheatreCapChallenge.

Robert Hackett, MD

You created a worldwide movement when you wrote your name and clinical role on the front of your surgical cap. What made you do it?
I thought it would be a simple and effective way to improve communication and teamwork in the operating room, and shared the idea on social media. The initiative really gained momentum when a provider in the United Kingdom came up with the hashtag #TheatreCapChallenge, which went viral on Twitter. Surgical professionals from around the world have shared pictures of themselves wearing caps that note their names and positions. It’s been incredible.

What was the initial response to the idea?
Very mixed. The greatest support came from patients and junior staff. The greatest resistance tended to be from those who have been in health care for many years and often have the clout. Their influence can be so great that it prevents those who want to make change happen — even when they know it’s right — from actually proceeding with it.

How does writing names and roles on caps improve patient safety?
It simply improves the ability of staff members to remember one another’s first names, which is great for developing camaraderie and addressing someone directly. When we hear our name, we focus on it despite the noise and conversations around us. Addressing colleagues by name when providing instructions in a busy OR leads to more rapid task completion. Unfortunately, even when we’re not distracted, we typically remember only 30% of names after first introduction. That’s why writing names on caps is important.

Does noting names and roles also build trust between patients and staff?
Absolutely. Patients meet several staff members when they enter the OR. It’s comforting and creates personal connections when they see the names and roles of the many masked faces who are caring for them. We’ve received feedback from all over the world, and one intriguing survey indicated that staff who displayed their names and roles on their caps were much more willing to speak up when they saw a safety-related problem.

How do you feel about the remarkable response to the movement you started?
I’m certainly inspired. We need to redesign surgical care on the premise that doctors and nurses are human and make mistakes, which can lead to catastrophic events in our high-risk industry. Working together, and noting who we are and what we do on surgical caps, will help to create the best environment for safe patient care. OSM

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