Why are standardized, repeatable work procedures so important in the OR?


OR leaders have many functions and personnel to manage, and it can be challenging to stay on top of daily activities. To ensure patient safety and maintain regulatory compliance, each team must be accountable for following proper protocols. But how does an overwhelmed OR leader track that accountability on a daily basis?

One important strategy is creating standardized, repeatable work procedures for every team and responsibility within the OR. This blog reviews six ways that standardized procedures can streamline staff management and create a more efficient OR.


1. Expectation setting

When there are written, standardized policies and procedures, it creates clear expectations of the work required for all personnel. Expected duties are laid out in black and white, so there is no “gray area” for confusion.

Imagine, for instance, taking your driver’s test without understanding up front what constitutes “perfect” parallel parking. You’d be surprised to learn you failed your test because it wasn’t okay to hit the curb as you maneuvered into the space. In the same way, establishing specific procedures ensures personnel know exactly what is expected, simplifying OR management.


2. Improved accountability

Once standardized work procedures are established, it provides an objective barometer for measuring personnel accountability on a daily basis. It becomes easier to monitor each function and ensure each person completes what is expected of them. If a job duty isn’t completed or if a problem is identified, an OR leader can refer back to the written guidelines to find where the breakdown occurred.

Think of this in terms of your personal “to-do” list. Checking off that last item confirms that you finished all planned activities for the day. Managers and personnel alike benefit from such clarity.


3. Better quality

Have you ever gotten a poor performance rating for job functions you didn’t know were your responsibility? I have, and it’s frustrating. When personnel know exactly what they are supposed to do, they can perform at a higher level.

With standard work procedures, staff can be inspected against the very list of activities they have completed. This makes evaluation straightforward and objective: simply, did the personnel complete the tasks according to established procedures? Once standards are implemented, managers can use their first evaluation as a baseline against which quality improvements can be made.


4. Continuous improvement

When procedures are documented and repeated, opportunities to improve them become obvious. This is the start of what is known as 'LEAN-thinking'. How can you make the procedure simpler, or more efficient? How can specific personnel improve in their daily tasks?

If you look closely, you’ll find examples of continuous improvement in your own personal life. For example, my first-grade son and I created a 10-step process to get ready for school in the morning. After a week of following the list, my son switched the order of “brush teeth” and “get dressed” to eliminate a second trip upstairs to his bedroom.


5. Internal "customer" satisfaction

Standardized procedures help “internal customers”—anesthesiologists and OR nurses—know what to expect when arriving at the OR in the morning or immediately after an OR turnover. Clear expectations not only make everything run smoothly, but also make your customers’ lives easier.

For this same reason, you likely appreciate seeing documented proof that custodians are consistently cleaning restrooms at your facility. It makes their job clear-cut and gives customers like us peace of mind.


6. Calm during chaos

When disaster strikes, airline pilots refer to pre-defined checklists to guarantee they remain calm and methodical in performing their job during a crisis. Though not as serious as a mid-flight airplane malfunction, ORs can be stressful, chaotic environments as well.

Regardless of what is happening at a given time, standard procedures allow personnel movement and coverage to take place without impacting quality, as everyone is aware of required protocols and responsibilities. This makes the management of an OR more efficient and ensures patient safety in any scenario.


ReadyList supports OR leaders by helping establish standard work procedures for each specialty within the OR. Check out this sample checklist of Anesthesia Tech daily responsibilities—you may find value printing it out to distribute to your personnel.

Streamline Anesthesia Technicians Daily Activities

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