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Use of briefings and debriefings as a tool in improving team work, efficiency, and communication in the operating theatre
  1. Robert Bethune,
  2. Govindarajulu Sasirekha,
  3. Ajay Sahu,
  4. Simon Cawthorn,
  5. Anne Pullyblank
  1. North Bristol NHS Trust, UK
  1. Correspondence to Robert Bethune, North Bristol NHS Trust, Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1JE, UK; rob.bethune{at}


Introduction Team work, communication, and efficiency in the operating theatre are widely recognised to be suboptimal. Poor communication is the single biggest cause of medical error. The surgical operating theatre is a potentially highly stressed environment where poor communication can lead to fatal errors. The objectives of this study were to assess the effects briefings and debriefings had on theatre start time, list lengths, and the staff's impression of these meetings.

Materials and methods Briefings and debriefings were conducted before the start of theatre lists over a 6 month period in 2007 in a district general hospital in north Bristol, UK. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected. Using the hospital theatre database, theatre start and finish time was found and list length calculated. A questionnaire was devised and used to assess staff attitude to the briefings and debriefings.

Results Staff felt that the briefings highlighted potential problems, improved the team culture, and led to organisational change. Theatre start times tended to be earlier and lists lengths were shorter when briefings were conducted, although this only reached statistical significance on one type of list.

Discussion Briefings and debriefings had a positive impact on teamwork and communication. The lists ran more efficiently and briefings did not delay the theatre start times—in fact, the lists tended to start earlier.

  • Communication
  • surgery
  • teams
  • briefing
  • change management
  • adult surgery
  • adverse events

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.