How the #TheatreCapChallenge is improving patient safety

For the past year, the #TheatreCapChallenge has made its way into hospitals across the globe with one simple, yet profound goal: to improve patient safety.

In an always-changing hospital environment, it can be difficult to remember everyone’s name and role during surgery. But when every second counts, you can’t afford to waste time trying to identify your colleagues.

This challenge began when Australian anesthetist, Dr. Rob Hackett, noticed a consistent problem when entering the operating room—you could hardly tell who anybody was. When there are 15-20 people around the surgical table, whose faces are mostly covered by masks, it can create confusion, hinder communication, and become dangerous.

Dr. Hackett’s observation was confirmed when he found himself in an emergency situation where a patient in his operating room went into cardiac arrest. He pointed at a nurse through the doorway for assistance, but thinking he pointed at the person behind her, the nurse continued walking and precious time was lost for the patient.

It became apparent to Dr. Hackett that the confusion and delay could been avoided had everyone clearly displayed their names and occupations so that they could be addressed directly. Dr. Hackett showed up the next day with “Rob, Anesthetist” boldly written across his surgical scrub cap, also known as a theatre cap, and the movement was set in motion.

While it was deemed unusual at first, the #TheatreCapChallenge quickly caught on due to its ability to save valuable time in the operating room. Being able to tell who a person is and what skill set they bring to the table is crucial when patient’s lives are at stake. This challenge invites staff members to familiarize themselves with the team while creating personal connections between doctors and patients.

What started as a simple idea has made an immense impact on operating room dynamics. Because, as Dr. Hackett believes, when it comes to patient safety, every step toward improvement is a step toward a healthy outcome.

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