As much as we try to minimize human error in the healthcare field, it still happens. To decrease the chance of its occurrence we’ve created various policies, rules, and guidelines which are enforced by medical institutions globally. Organizations like the PatientSafe Network help to evaluate the current state of errors and establish new recommendations to help in their reduction. Sometimes, these changes seem so small they’re considered inconsequential. But we have to remember that even the most minuscule alteration is worthwhile if it helps to save even one life.
One of the most recent campaigns that’s been spreading to hospitals worldwide is the use of name tags in operating rooms (also known as theatres). The campaign was started by Rob Hackett, an Australian anesthesiologist, about a year ago. He began writing his name and title on his surgical cap. In an interview with Bored Panda he said his coworkers initially poked fun at him, making commentary like “you can’t remember your own name, huh?” But they soon saw the advantages of this practice.
The Big Picture
Picture this. You’re a surgeon who has entered the theatre to conduct an open heart surgery. You’re greeted with 20+ medical professionals, some of whom you know well and some of whom you can’t remember for the life of you. According to guidelines established by the World Health Organisation, you’re all supposed to introduce yourselves before the procedure starts. So, you begin. But from some chuckles during the rounds of introductions, it’s clear this isn’t as common practice as it’s supposed to be.
You then begin the surgery. However, it’s quite impossible to remember all of the names of the people you just met, even though you completed the mandated introductions. It’s even more complicated because everyone is basically dressed in the same surgical scrubs, the same hats, and the same masks. During the surgery you stop using names and begin resorting to pointing and hand gestures because you just can’t remember. Of course, this can be confusing as different people in the room begin thinking they’re the ones being pointed at.
Dr. Hackett’s idea eliminates confusion, increases efficiency, and most importantly, ensures safety for all patients, including those with rare diseases.
A Global Campaign
People around the world are now taking up the practice of writing their names on their surgical caps. They’re sharing selfies and anecdotes of their experiences on social media using the hashtag #TheatreCapChallenge.
All caps include both the person’s name and their title. This way, people know exactly who they’re talking to or who they need to address with just one glance up from the operating table.
It’s useful in routine procedures, c-sections, complicated surgeries for rare conditions, and practically any other type of procedure.
Historical Use of Name Tags
Dr. Hackett wasn’t truly the first one to come up with this idea. Kate Granger, a doctor who passed away from cancer in 2016, developed the #hellomynameis campaign in 2013. She created the campaign when she herself was in the hospital for sepsis. During her hospital stay, many of the healthcare professionals caring for her never introduced themselves. She felt it made for a very impersonal experience and resulted in a missed opportunity to build trust between patient and provider.
The #TheatreCapChallenge has similar aims, but provides a more tangible solution.
Besides increasing safety (which is obviously the most important reason for the implementation of this new practice), name tags can also improve the patient experience and save hospitals money. Not to mention they’re also better for the environment.
Imagine you’re a pregnant mom going in for a c-section. Every single person in the operating room has their name and role written on their hospital cap. Instantly you feel more comfortable. It makes the experience more personable. These medical professionals are real people with human hearts, dedicated to providing you the best experience possible. It can also ease nerves as you can understand more clearly what everyone’s role is and who is responsible for what part of your procedure.
Additionally, because this campaign uses reusable caps instead of the typical disposable ones, they are having less of an impact on the environment and saving hospitals a good amount of money. Typically, hospitals with 20 theatres spend 10,000 dollars on disposable caps per year, discarding 100,000 caps into the garbage.
You can read more about this global campaign, and a full interview with Rob Hackett here.