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communication, operating room, patient safety, social network analysis, teamwork



  1. Stucky, Christopher H.
  2. De Jong, Marla J.
  3. Kabo, Felichism W.
  4. Huffman, Sarah L.


Background: Preventable clinician communication errors are the most frequent root cause of surgical adverse events. Effective communication among surgical team members is an important overall indicator of clinical nursing excellence and is crucial to promote patient safety and reduce healthcare risk.


Objective: The purpose of this publication is to describe our research protocol, which will comprehensively investigate surgical team communication and surgical team structure. There are two overall study objectives: (a) to characterize the network factors that influence perioperative clinician communication and (b) to identify how team structure shapes communication effectiveness. Specifically, we will study the association among clinician relationships, surgical team familiarity, surgical team size, and communication effectiveness.


Methods: We will use an exploratory, prospective, cross-sectional, network-centric approach using social network analysis to determine how interdependent clinician relationships influence surgical communication patterns. Targeting an 80% response rate, we will use total population sampling to recruit all clinicians (nurses, surgeons, anesthetists, surgical technologists, students, residents) who directly provide surgical care in the operating room at a large military medical center. We will administer an electronic survey to surgical teams at the end of the surgical day to elicit clinician communication assessments and relational preferences. From the survey questions, we will develop six relational networks (interaction, close working relationship, socialization, advice seeking, advice giving, speaking up/voice) and three models that represent communication effectiveness for each participant and team. We will use various statistical methods to characterize the network factors that shape operating room clinician communication and identify how team structure shapes communication effectiveness.


Results: This study will start enrolling participants in 2020.


Discussion: We are among the first to comprehensively investigate operating room communication using social network analysis. The results of this study will provide valuable insight into nurse collaboration and communication in interprofessional teams, enable a thoughtful analysis of surgical staffing and perioperative team building, and inform future-targeted interventions to improve operating room communication weaknesses.