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In theatre

Theatre presents a challenge as multiple demands commonly converge, such as patient safety, training of juniors, time pressure, and external demands.

Those new to the team and the environment will find this environment particularly challenging.

In this situation a positive workplace culture in theatre is essential for effective team performance, patient safety and staff wellbeing.

Poster 3: Theatre (PDF 258kb)

 Thumbnail of Poster 3 "Theatre" in RCOG Workplace Behaviour Toolkit

Practical tips

1. Recognise the influence of external factors on you and your team.

2. Be kind. 

  • If there is a communication breakdown in a stressful situation you should apologise (see Poster 1 "Sorry" below).
  • Support you team members to have breaks and reset.
  • If someone is struggling, ask them if they are OK (see Poster 2 "Tea" below). You don’t know what might be affecting their work. A bit of kindness may go a long way to improving things for them and yourself.
  • Support new team members with scrubbing, preparing patients and familiarise them with both  equipment and processes that are new to them. Remember team members who are new to the department or to the country will have other valuable skills but may not be familiar with local processes and the local team may underestimate their capabilities as a result. This can cause them to feel undervalued, underconfident and potentially less able to perform well.

3. Be assertive without being confrontational:

  • Build positive working relationships with the theatre team at the beginning of the list. Get to know their names, roles and experience
  • Set goals at the start of your theatre list
  • Identify external pressures such as time and divide up your list as appropriate so everyone knows what their role is.
  • Set aside specific time for feedback.  It is important to be able to both give and receive constructive feedback.
  • Keep goals objective and avoid comparison with others.
  • This wikiHow "How to Be Assertive Without Being Aggressive" by relationship expert Maya Diamond has some more tips.

4. Thank your team at the end of the theatre list, conduct an effective team-debrief, take the opportunity to identify and learn from excellence

Case example of the consequence of negative behaviour related to being new to a workplace culture:

‘I am an SHO in O&G and an international medical graduate. On my second or third day in the speciality a registrar singled me out in the operating room upon seeing me scrub in. They knew it was my first time assisting in this particular procedure. They shouted at me and made me scrub a total of 3 times once even slapping my hands so that I would have to do it again.

It was my first emergency theatre experience and there was no attempt to teach me any specifics or show me where anything was. A scrub nurse showed me where everything was in the end. The midwives and theatre staff were also very kind and reassuring.

It was hard as I was new to the dept and speciality.  I didn’t feel that I could report it.  I made sure I knew where everything was in any theatre I was in in future as the humiliation was something I wanted to avoid. Professionally I never let someone speak to me that way but I was new and didn’t want to stir up any problems.’