3 Creative Ways to Get Every Team Member to Participate in Timeout

3 Creative Ways to Get Every Team Member to Participate in Timeout

Phoning in your participation in a surgical timeout is a surefire way to put your patients’ health and safety at risk. Yet, in the hectic moments before surgery begins, some surgical teams admit  it’s not uncommon to settle for nods instead of mindful verbal confirmation of patient identity, procedure and surgical site.

“A timeout is not a timeout unless all members of the surgical team are present, proactive and participate,” writes Dan O’Connor in a recent article on the topic in Outpatient Surgery magazine.

To guarantee full participation from everyone on the surgical team at your ASC, he recommends trying one of these three tactics suggested by various surgical teams around the country.

1. Paint the OR Red: Not literally, of course, but printing “Time Out” in bold red letters on the white towel that covers all surgical instruments used in a procedure is a great way to help focus everyone’s mind on timeout participation before starting surgery. After a wrong-site surgery incident at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, surgical staff used this mental queue to get everyone dialed in on this important safety measure.

2. Sound a Gong: Sound too far-fetched? Not for the surgical teams at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Michigan. According to Outpatient Surgery, they outfitted all 24 of their operating rooms with a 14-inch wide Tibetan bong. The recorder bangs it before every procedure to get the surgical team’s attention and full participation in timeout.

3. Play a Kazoo: Another ASC based in Fredericksburg, VA found that blowing a kazoo was just the trick to get everyone’s attention. Registered nurse Barbara Harvey said she used it on a whim and found that her team was entertained into stopping what they were doing to fully engage in the timeout.

Keep in mind that safety experts say it’s not enough to have timeout participation from just the nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other support staff on the surgical team. They suggest involving the patient in the timeout before sedation to add “another layer of protection”.

They also say a second timeout is essential any time a second surgeon scrubs in to perform a different procedure on the same patient, or when a patient needs to be repositioned to work on another part of their body. 

"To minimize confusion and the potential for wrong-site surgery after you reposition a patient, take a 'pause' or a mini time-out to confirm the procedure, the surgical site and the marking," says Katherine L. Kirkham, MSN, RN, CNOR, from the University of Florida Health-Shands in Gainesville, Florida.

By making timeouts a top priority at your ASC, you can significantly decrease the risk of preventable errors. That’s something everyone on your team can get behind.

For more insights on getting your surgical team’s full attention during timeout, check out the complete Outpatient Surgery article here.


How Do You Get Everyone’s Attention During Timeout?

Comment below to let us know how your ASC tackles participation issues during timeout.