PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend Launches Surgical Safety Initiative


​Improving communication among members of surgical teams has been shown to improve outcomes for patients.

The surgical staff at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend has begun training in a nationally recognized surgical safety initiative designed to enhance operating room communication. Known as TeamSTEPPS, the program uses communications tactics such as call backs, handoffs, briefings and debriefings among all members of the surgical team to optimize outcomes for patients.

"Lack of communication is the primary source of complications in operating room procedures," said Andrea Halliday, MD, PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Patient Safety Officer. "The TeamSTEPPS system builds upon existing operating protocols with communication tactics that strengthen the team dynamic through verbal communication, engagement and the establishment of a shared mental model."

TeamSTEPPS communications tactics foster dialog and consistency though four basic practices:
  • Call backs: When a member of the surgical team makes a statement or request, a "call back" of that statement or request from the appropriate member of the surgical team ensures that the message has been received and will be acted upon.
  • Handoffs: When a patient is transferred from one care setting to another, a designated member of the surgical team will refer to a checklist of all pertinent patient-care items, including their procedure, diagnosis, name, condition, allergies, concerns and post-op plan, to ensure that all key patient-care information is noted and observed throughout the patient's entire spectrum of care.
  • Briefings and debriefings: Before the start of a procedure, the surgical team will take a moment to check in as a team and go over the planned operation to make sure all team members understand the operative plan, can discuss any safety concerns, and have had a chance to ask questions. Following the operation, the team confirms the procedure, the surgical counts, what specimens were removed, the blood loss and the postoperative plan. Any recommendations for process improvement are recorded on a debriefing form.
In the trainings, teams run through multiple surgical procedure simulations using a medical model designed to simulate a live patient. Each simulation includes a patient complication. Next, the team runs through a simulation using the communications techniques outlined in the TeamSTEPPS system.

"Surgery is a team sport," said Bobbi Faust, Director of Surgical Quality, Safety and Standards at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart. "Our TeamSTEPPS trainings have been interdisciplinary, involving every member of the surgical team, including surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, scrub technicians and surgical assistants. By implementing the TeamSTEPPS protocols, we will be able to optimize the use of information, people and resources to achieve the best clinical outcomes for patients."

PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend is already a recognized leader in the field of surgical patient safety and clinical excellence. In December 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services named PeaceHealth Sacred Heart at RiverBend one of the 97 best hospitals in the country for hip and knee replacements. In October 2013, it was one of the 37 hospitals cited for achievements in outcomes for surgical patient care by the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Plan.

TeamSTEPPS was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense and is based on 25 years of research and analysis into surgical operations and outcomes. Already 90 percent of military facilities and 25 percent of U.S. hospitals have begun implementing the program.