Tips for Conflict Resolution in the Operating Room

Doctors in the OR during surgery

Any experienced anesthesia provider has likely faced some form of conflict in the operating room. It’s easy to understand how the operating room can breed conflict given that countless stressful scenarios can play out during a case. When stress levels are high, cordiality diminishes, and this can lead to conflict. There are several tips we have learned throughout our many years of anesthesia management that we can share to help resolve conflicts in the operating room.

Understand Your Priorities as an Anesthesia Provider 

Before delving into the specifics of conflict resolution techniques for the operating room, we cannot place too much emphasis on the most important consideration of any conflict: patient safety. No matter what, patient safety can never be compromised and it should never be overlooked at the expense of workplace conflict. As anesthesia providers, our foremost commitment is to the safety of our patients. 

Next to patient safety, surgeon satisfaction is one of the most important elements of carrying out our duties. Strong relationships with stakeholders—which includes surgeons—is a cornerstone of our business. We encourage our anesthesia providers to get to know the surgeons with whom they work and strive to perform in ways that support their preferences and routines. Working collaboratively with surgeons to ensure the best patient outcomes possible is an important part of being an anesthesia provider.

There is No Such Thing as Overcommunication 

The most common cause of conflict in the operating room is miscommunication. Depending on the type of case being conducted, it can be tempting for anesthesia providers to keep to themselves at the head of the bed. Even amidst the mundanity of simple procedures or a normal surgical routine, it is essential for anesthesia providers to communicate. Keep the surgeon informed of the anesthetic progress and patient vitals while actively listening for queues or updates from the surgeon. Clear communication is the key to conflict resolution in the operating room. 

Recognize Symptoms of Burnout

When people are in a great mood, avoiding conflict is easy. Burnout among healthcare professionals is a serious issue and can lead to moodiness, errors and conflicts among operating room staff. As an anesthesia provider, be sympathetic toward surgeons or other operating room team members who are experiencing symptoms of burnout. Likewise, recognize symptoms of burnout in yourself and take steps to remedy them. Here are some of the top symptoms of burnout among healthcare providers:

  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Pessimism and irritability
  • Isolation
  • Poor performance 

Symptoms of burnout always lead to conflict in the operating room. Rather than letting these symptoms lead to conflict, recognize them for what they are and have a heartfelt conversation with the person affected by them. As someone who has likely experienced burnout yourself, display empathy and compassion. 

Get to the Root of the Problem

When conflicts do arise in the operating room, resolve them swiftly without allowing time for the issue to fester. This may mean rolling up your sleeves to drive institutional changes or policy amendments. Rather than having the opinion that your job is to simply provide anesthesia care, take ownership in the entire patient care continuum and become involved in streamlining processes that lead to reduced conflict. For example, serve on a committee where decisions are being made about preoperative protocols or schedule a meeting with the operating room director to discuss improvement strategies. Ultimately, anesthesia providers should play an active role in problem-solving exercises and commit themselves to improving operating room culture and morale.  

Call in Support When You Need It

As a CCI Anesthesia provider, you are never treated as a lone wolf left to defend itself in the wilderness. We support our CRNAs and anesthesiologists in conflict resolution efforts and will even send our corporate officers in to assist if needed. No matter what, CCI Anesthesia will always have your back and provide you with invaluable mentorship to help make your work environment the best it can be. 

Contact us today at 800.494.3948 if you are experiencing ongoing conflict in the operating room and are ready for a long-term solution.