_MEDICINE organization

_Surgery Teamwork Matters

Surgical teams can reduce patient post-surgery stays by paying attention to surgery complexity and surgeon time in the operating room.

_Lauren D’Innocenzo

D’Innocenzo is an associate professor of organizational behavior in the LeBow College of Business.

Anyone who has ever had surgery knows that the most important question for a patient, after the reassurance of a successful inpatient procedure, is how long it will take before returning home. While the performance of everyone on a surgical team is important, some roles play a greater part in how long a patient may need to remain at a hospital post-surgery.

New research forthcoming in the Journal of Applied Psychology looked at how the interaction between the core surgical team member, or the surgeon, and the non-core surgical team members, such as the circulator nurse, scrub tech and anesthesiologist, can affect team performance.

“Our findings could help hospitals optimize staffing in operating rooms for a more successful surgery and decrease the postoperative length of hospital stay,” says study co-author Lauren D’Innocenzo, an associate professor of organizational behavior in the LeBow College of Business.

The researchers analyzed archival data from 7,070 surgeries at a large U.S. community hospital. From this data the researchers were able to compute how many times an individual surgeon had worked with non-core members on similar types of surgery. They then examined the time between surgery completion and patient discharge.

They found that a surgeon’s prior experience with the rest of the surgical team played a vital role in the team’s performance, as did the surgeon’s physical presence in the operating room. Specifically, if the surgeon had performed the same type of surgery with the same team members before, patient stays were shorter.

However, the complexity of the surgery was a critical factor in this relationship. Findings indicated that the relationship between surgeon experience with non-core members and team performance was weakened when the surgery was more complex and when the surgeon spent less time in the operating room.