Rationale The aim of the research that we report here was to empirically assess the cohesiveness of the multidisciplinary operating theatre (OT) team.
Method We used concepts from the team performance and team mental models literature to assess OT professionals’ perceptions of their teamwork, the structure of their teams and their respective roles within them and their teams’ performance.
Results Team structure: OT professionals would welcome a change from the current structure of the team, although there was no agreement on what that structure is. Nurses perceived the team as unitary, surgeons and anaesthetists perceived it as comprising multiple subteams. Team roles: OT professionals tended to overrate their own understanding of their colleagues’ role in the OT relative to the role understanding that the colleagues attributed to them. This tendency was especially marked for the surgeons. Team communication and team performance: OT professionals agreed on the relative importance of the various communicating pairs in the OT. Moreover, they were satisfied with the quality of communication among them, except for the communication between the surgeon and the anaesthetist, which received lower ratings. Finally, the quality of the teamwork in the OT was deemed acceptable, although there is room for improvement.
Conclusions The OT environment need not be as cohesive as previously assumed – a finding that carries implications for the effectiveness of team training interventions. Further research is needed in order to fully comprehend the dynamics of the OT as a working environment and, most importantly, their relation to patient safety.