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Lancaster General Health is looking to the aviation industry to optimize safety for surgical patients.
More than 700 physicians and clinical staff in Perioperative Services and the Interventional Vascular Unit will complete Crew Resource Management training beginning in October. The training, provided by LifeWings Partners LLC, utilizes best safety practices from commercial aviation and other high-reliability industries.

Mark Burlingame, M.D.

Lancaster General Hospital Chair of Surgery Mark Burlingame, M.D., said Crew Resource Management helps healthcare organizations create a sustainable culture of safety, accountability and high reliability by improving teamwork and communication.
The training hardwires customized safety tools -- including checklists similar to those pilots use before a flight – with the goal of creating an environment that encourages team members to “stop the line” with any safety concerns.
“We want to strengthen the culture of safety within our operating rooms,” Dr. Burlingame said. “That includes empowering every individual, from a patient care assistant to a surgeon, to speak up if they see something wrong. They should feel encouraged to do so, without any stigma or retribution attached.”
LifeWings coaches will lead four-hour on-site training sessions for physicians and clinical teams from Perioperative Services and the IVU. Surgeon leaders and “master trainers” – who will learn how to train new physicians and staff – will complete more extensive training.
Paul Newman, M.D., Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery, chairs the steering committee that leads LG Health’s Crew Resource Management initiative.
Crew Resource Management teaches teams to regularly assess whether everyone is on the same page. It also improves situational awareness, which includes processing what is currently happening and planning for what could happen next.
“In addition to improving patient safety, this approach provides greater job satisfaction, which in turn minimizes turnover,” Dr. Burlingame said. “It’s about feeling that you are a critical part of the team, and what you do and your opinion count.”
Training also improves teamwork and communication in high-risk, high-stress situations, which helps to prevent errors and reduce risk. A “preflight” checklist and other safety tools help the team recognize and correct potential errors before beginning a surgery.
“Human error is inevitable,” Dr. Burlingame said. “You have to have a system in place that catches those errors and prevents the consequences.
“All of this is for the benefit of our patients.”

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