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Changing our culture to advance patient safety

The 2013 AANS Presidential Address

Mitchel S. Berger, Robert M. Wachter, S. Ryan Greysen, and Catherine Y. Lau

“Changing our culture to advance patient safety” served as the theme of the 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and is an issue of personal importance to the author. To improve outcomes for patients and prevent avoidable surgical errors, neurosurgeons must change the culture that currently exists in the operating room so that safety concerns are of the utmost importance and that each member of the care team has a personal sense of accountability. Doing this will involve implementing and consistently applying systems-based strategies to ensure an adequate level of safeguards; improving communication with all members of the care team and dismantling authority gradients; and maintaining a well-trained and well-rested workforce.

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Catherine Y. Lau, S. Ryan Greysen, Rita I. Mistry, Seunggu J. Han, Praveen V. Mummaneni, and Mitchel S. Berger


Surgical and medical errors result from failures in communication and handoffs as well as lack of standardization in clinical protocols and safety practices. Checklists, simulation training, and teamwork training have been shown to decrease adverse patient events and increase the safety culture of surgical teams. The goal of this project was to simplify and standardize perioperative patient safety practices and team communication processes within operative neurosurgery through the creation of an educational safety video targeted at a neurosurgical provider audience.


A multidisciplinary group consisting of neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, neuromonitoring specialists, quality champions, and a professional video production company met over several months in an iterative process to 1) determine the overall objectives of the video, 2) decide on the content and format of the video, 3) modify the proposed content and format based on stakeholder feedback, and 4) record the video and complete final revisions during postproduction.


The video was launched within the authors' institution in July 2012 in conjunction with ongoing research projects to study the effects of the video on 1) multidisciplinary providers' knowledge of perioperative safety practices, 2) provider safety attitudes and safety culture in the operating room, and 3) provider behavior in performing predetermined elements of the preoperative timeout and postoperative debrief.


The neurosurgical perioperative safety video can serve as a national model for how quality champions can drive changes in safety culture and provider behavior among multidisciplinary perioperative patient care teams. Ongoing research is being performed to assess the impact of the video on provider knowledge, behavior, and safety attitudes and culture.