How to Perfect Your Huddle Board

Publish Date: November 13, 2019

“Use your visual management boards and make them work for you,” advises David Wyatt, PhD, RN, NE-BC, CNOR, vice president of Perioperative Enterprise at Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital in Nashville, Tenn.

Known commonly as huddle boards, these visual management tools have become a popular way in perioperative care to track what is discussed during a team huddle.

In the perioperative settings at Vanderbilt that Wyatt oversees, a visual management board is located where each perioperative team huddles—he even has a board in his office to monitor activities he is discussing with his leadership team.

“The worst thing a staff nurse can do with a board is not to use it to share concerns; for managers, the worst thing they can do is fail to update a board in real time,” he cautions.

Make the Most of Your Board

Wyatt’s teams typically meet for a morning huddle at their board to talk about their day and how they are doing with things that are important to them. Common metrics tracked include efficiencies such as on-time starts and turnover time.

Any issues that arise, such as equipment failure, also are tracked so progress with resolving the issue can be followed by the team using red, yellow and green color coding for progress tracking.

“These boards offer an important way for teams to communicate with each other and with leadership to address concerns and understand resolution is in progress,” he notes.

Here are four ways Wyatt suggests OR teams can take advantage of their huddle board to voice concerns, share resolution and follow performance:

  1. Track things that are impeding workflow

    Speak up through the board and in the huddle with a practice concern, such as a lack of equipment or impaired equipment that is delaying case flow, patient care, or something related to team dynamics, he suggests.

    His teams use the board to track progress with improvement initiatives. For example, an established workflow for the circulator was developed to track and improve efficiency. Metrics tied to the success of the workflow are tracked on the board and discussed at the huddle. “We also have a ‘real time issues’ section of the board where any member of the team can post an issue that is impeding their practice.”

  2. Expect updates to the board

    Wyatt’s managers are tasked with taking any issue posted to the board and addressing it to move toward resolution.

    When the resolution is in progress, the manager moves the issue to the yellow section of the board, and when the issue is resolved it is moved to the green section. For example, if there is a broken surgeon’s chair the manager would move forward with a repair that could take several weeks so the progress tracking on the board helps team members see action is being taken. 

  3. Understand expectations

    Leaders use the boards to set and communicate established goals for productivity and other metrics regarding staff performance. For example, audits for Time Out and fire safety are tracked on the boards to help Wyatt’s teams understand performance expectations and how well they are all performing across OR suites.

  4. Share kudos

    This is a favorite section of the board for staff because it gives them an opportunity to recognize a colleague in a way that others can see, Wyatt says. “A kudos could give a shout out to a team member who went above and beyond for their patient, supported a colleague through a challenging situation or recognize a team member who brings a positive attitude to work.”


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