A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) discusses surgical team training and team work in the operating room. According to the authors, there is insufficient information about the effectiveness of medical team training on surgical outcomes. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) implemented a formalized medical team training program for operating room personnel on a national level.

A retrospective health services study with a contemporaneous control group was conducted. Outcome data were obtained from the VHA Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP) and from structured interviews in fiscal years 2006 to 2008. The analysis included 182,409 sampled procedures from 108 VHA facilities that provided care to veterans. The VHA’s nationwide training program required briefings and debriefings in the operating room and included checklists as an integral part of this process. The training included 2 months of preparation, a 1-day conference, and 1 year of quarterly coaching interviews

The study’s lead author, James Bagian, MD, is a former NASA astronaut. The VA training took a page from the aviation and the nuclear power industries, which have used checklists and improved communication to reduce risks. The adoption of surgical team training saw a mortality rates drop from 17 deaths per 1,000 cases to 14 deaths per 1,000 cases.

The study concludes that participation in the VHA Medical Team Training program was associated with lower surgical mortality.

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[Source: Journal of the American Medical Association]