Building Great Teams in the OR

In a packed session on Saturday morning, Kathy W. Beydler, RN, CNOR, CASC, asked, “How many of you have seen nurses eat their young?”

A sea of hands shot up and groans filled the room.

Beydler, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, has seen her fair share of dysfunctional teams and negative behavior, both in and out of the OR, during her session, “Can’t We All Just Get Along? How to Transform Your Team for Excellent Patient Care.”

“OR and teamwork at times may not seem compatible,” she said.

Poor team work, she says, can decrease morale, patient satisfaction, and patient care.

She says poor teamwork can take many forms, from verbal outbursts and visible threats, to passive- aggressive remarks and refusing to do tasks.

Beydler shared a story of a RN circulator who was purposefully set up to fail by a first assistant, and another of a surgeon who threw a Bard Parker blade at a nurse during surgery.

“Thankfully, it missed,” she said.

Even though she has seen some examples of poorly run teams, Beydler says she has seen some amazing OR teams as well. She highlighted one team in particular and said the leader of that organization empowered her team and let each member shine.

“Every team member is essential and that’s what they recognized at this surgery center,” she said.

So, what does it take to build a stellar team?

Beydler says it starts with hiring the right people and setting behavioral and professional expectations early on.

“It starts with the interview,” she said. “There are certain things I will accept or not accept.”

She says a lot of times, empathy for coworkers is perceived as a weakness and nurses feel they must eat their young to survive. Beydler wants that to change.

“With that toughness, we have to have the compassion,” she said.