Isn’t it funny how we can get used to things being a certain way, and never really question it, and then one day someone decides to make what could be perceived as a pretty minor change, and all of a sudden you wonder how you got along before? Well, Australian anesthetist Dr. Rob Hackett is one of those people who took it upon himself to enact a small change, and word is that he’s already made a huge impact in his industry — specifically hospital safety.
The simple change Rob made? Putting his name and what he does on his scrub cap. Seriously.
Initially, Hackett’s colleagues joked around about his idea. However, within a year’s time, they had started the very same practice of labeling their scrub caps.
So why’d he do it? Dr. Hackett wanted to reduce the instances of mistakes made when people don’t know a doctor’s name or area of expertise. In a life or death situation, where literal seconds can be the difference between a patient’s survival and losing them, forgetting a co-workers name or who can help with a case, Hackett believes those moments are saved by labeling scrub caps.
Hackett started a hashtag for his movement and called #TheaterCapChallenge. Hackett says the practice has been adopted by and tested in both the UK and the United States, and that it appears to be working.
“The #TheatreCapChallenge is an initiative from the PatientSafe Network in response to concerns about how easily avoidable mistakes and poor communication are contributing to rising adverse events for our patients,” Dr. Hackett told Bored Panda. “It has been adopted around the world with studies from the US and UK demonstrating how this simple idea can decrease human errors in healthcare.”
Dr. Hackett recalled a time that he was assisting with a cardiac arrest and there was so much confusion in the crowded operating room (theatre) he was in that he even had difficulty getting gloves because of all the chaos and confusion.
“I went to a cardiac arrest in a theatre where there were about 20 people in the room,” Dr. Rob Hackett said. “I struggled to even ask to be passed some gloves because the person I was pointing to thought I was pointing to the person behind them.”
Now, all over the world, doctors are tweeting their support for the movement, using #TheatreCapChallenge.
Dr. Hackett has seen an improvement in morale and the data the teams at his hospital collects shows better name recall. Basically, the labeled caps are increasing efficiency of communication.
“It’s been great interacting with a networked team of passionate individuals from all over the world,” Dr. Hackett added. “They’re constantly generating data. UK studies have shown increased name recall amongst staff from 42 to 85%, increased name and role introductions during the surgical safety checklist from 38 to 90%. Simulation studies at Stanford University in the US demonstrated greatly increased communication and theatre efficiency.”
But the benefits of labeling their scrub caps don’t just go to the doctors. Hackett says that patients have also benefited greatly from seeing who their doctors are and what they do. A woman in labor, for instance, would probably like to know who is helping her and with what, exactly.
Hackett even thinks there’s probably a sound ecological argument to be made for the practice. Reusable, labeled caps could replace the ones that are only used once and discarded. Not to mention the current disposable aren’t made in a very ecologically conscience way, either.
“A 20-theatre hospital will discard over 100,000 disposable caps every year. The caps are made from viscose – a substance whose production is particularly harmful to the environment.”
Dr. Hackett estimates that the switch to reusable caps could also have a financial incentive behind it. He believes a hospital the size of the one he works in spends roughly $10,000 annually on caps. A larger hospital would stand to save more, obviously.
It seems like this simple practice is something every hospital should at the very least look into. It improves the performance of the doctors, it improves the experience of the patient, and it has financial benefits attached. Add to it the reduction of waste and need for environmentally challenging production of the older caps, and you’ve got a formula for a real-world solution to a problem some people may not have known even existed, but sure would be happy about if it was the difference between their life or death.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.