Improving teamwork and communication in trauma care through in situ simulations. Academic Article uri icon


  • Teamwork and communication often play a role in adverse clinical events. Due to the multidisciplinary and time-sensitive nature of trauma care, the effects of teamwork and communication can be especially pronounced in the treatment of the acutely injured patient. Our hypothesis was that an in situ trauma simulation (ISTS) program (simulating traumas in the trauma bay with all members of the trauma team) could be implemented in an emergency department (ED) and that this would improve teamwork and communication measured in the clinical setting.This was an observational study of the effect of an ISTS program on teamwork and communication during trauma care. The authors observed a convenience sample of 39 trauma activations. Cases were selected by their presenting to the resuscitation bay of a Level I trauma center between 09:00 and 16:00, Monday through Thursday, during the study period. Teamwork and communication were measured using the previously validated Clinical Teamwork Scale (CTS). The observers were three Trauma Nursing Core Course certified RNs trained on the CTS by observing simulated and actual trauma cases and following each of these cases with a discussion of appropriate CTS scores with two certified Advanced Trauma Life Support instructors/emergency physicians. Cases observed for measurement were scored in four phases: 1) preintervention phase (baseline); 2) didactic-only intervention, the phase following a lecture series on teamwork and communication in trauma care; 3) ISTS phase, real trauma cases scored during period when weekly ISTSs were performed; and 4) potential decay phase, observations following the discontinuation of the ISTSs. Multirater agreement was assessed with Krippendorf's alpha coefficient; agreement was excellent (mean agreement = 0.92). Nonparametric procedures (Kruskal-Wallis) were used to test the hypothesis that the scores observed during the various phases were different and to compare each individual phase to baseline scores.The ISTS program was implemented and achieved regular participation of all components of our trauma team. Data were collected on 39 cases. The scores for 11 of 14 measures improved from the baseline to the didactic phase, and the mean and median scores of all CTS component measures were greatest during the ISTS phase. When each phase was compared to baseline scores, using the baseline as a control, there were no significant differences seen during the didactic or the decay phases, but 12 of the 14 measures showed significant improvements from the baseline to the simulation phase. However, when the Kruskal-Wallis test was used to test for differences across all phases, only overall communication showed a significant difference. During the potential decay phase, the scores for every measure returned to baseline phase values.This study shows that an ISTS program can be implemented with participation from all members of a multidisciplinary trauma team in the ED of a Level I trauma center. While teamwork and communication in the clinical setting were improved during the ISTS program, this effect was not sustained after ISTS were stopped.© 2012 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.

publication date

  • January 1, 2012