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The non-technical skills used by anaesthetic technicians in critical incidents reported to the Australian Incident Monitoring System between 2002 and 2008

Department of Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Summary

The outcome of critical incidents in the operating theatre has been shown to be influenced by the behaviour of anaesthetic technicians (ATs) assisting anaesthetists, but the specific non-technical skills involved have not been described. We performed a review of critical incidents (n=1433) reported to the Australian Incident Monitoring System between 2002 and 2008 to identify which non-technical skills were used by ATs. The reports were assessed if they mentioned anaesthetic assistance or had the boxes ticked to identify "inadequate assistance" or "absent supervision or assistance". A total of 90 critical incidents involving ATs were retrieved, 69 of which described their use of non-technical skills. In 20 reports, the ATs ameliorated the critical incident, whilst in 46 they exacerbated the critical incident, and three cases had both positive and negative non-technical skills described. Situation awareness was identified in 39 reports, task management in 23, teamwork in 21 and decision-making in two, but there were no descriptions of issues related to leadership, stress or fatigue management. Situation awareness, task management and teamwork appear to be important non-technical skills for ATs in the development or management of critical incidents in the operating theatre. This analysis has been used to support the development of a non-technical skills taxonomy for anaesthetic assistants.

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