Teamwork, communication, and anaesthetic assistance in Scotland

John Rutherford, Rhona Flin, Lucy Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Teamwork involves supporting others, solving conflicts, exchanging information, and co-ordinating activities. This article describes the results of interviews with anaesthetic assistants (n=22) and consultant anaesthetists (n=11), investigating the non-technical skills involved in the effective teamwork of the anaesthetic assistants in the operating theatre. Anaesthetic assistants most commonly saw themselves as either being part of a theatre team or an anaesthetic subgroup and most commonly described the senior theatre nurse as their team leader. Examples of supporting others included the following: checking equipment, providing equipment, being a second pair of eyes, providing emotional and decision support, and supporting trainee anaesthetists. Of the 19 anaesthetic assistants who were asked if they would speak up if they disagreed with a decision in theatre, only 14 said that they would voice their concerns, and the most common approach was to ask for the logic behind the decision. The WHO checklist was described as prompting some anaesthetists to describe their anaesthetic plan to the anaesthetic assistant, when previously the anaesthetist would have failed to communicate their intentions in time for equipment to be prepared. The prioritization of activities to achieve co-ordination and the anaesthetic assistants becoming familiar with the idiosyncrasies of their regular anaesthetists were also described by anaesthetic assistants.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-26
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012


  • anaesthesia
  • communication
  • helping behaviour
  • operating room nursing
  • operating room technician


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