One of my nursing colleagues was telling a story the other day about one of the first resuscitations we did together in the ED several years ago. It demonstrates the principle of establishing control of a sub-optimally coordinated team by using some form of attention grabber. She kindly agreed to write down her recollection for me to share here:
I have finally found 2 minutes to sit down and write you the story I was telling you about the other week…. We were in the middle of a resus in the ED, it was chaotic, loud and messy.
I remember you calling out in a commanding voice for everyone to stop (can’t recall what you actually said) but when we all looked up and fell silent you lifted up one leg, let a rather loud large fart out and then very calmly proceeded to take control of the situation. Everyone was so stunned, and slightly amused that the whole situation just settled right down and we all cracked on with the resus in a much more organised fashion.
I don’t know if you know I own a first aid training company. I tell this story when I am teaching. I explain to people that an emergency situation can be chaotic and stressful and someone has to take control. Sometimes you need to take a second to get a grip of yourself and others before you can be of any help to the person in need.
By telling your story it makes people realise you can stop for a second to gather yourself, take stock of what is needed then crack on. Sometimes it takes extreme measures such as dropping a fart to get people to get back on track.
You have given me many stories over the years but the fart one has got the most traction so far.
See you at work
I accept that some people may find this offensive or consider it inappropriate or unprofessional. Please consider:
All mammals produce flatus.
Holding on to flatus can be uncomfortable and can distract a resuscitation team leader, potentially adversely affecting outcome.
The performance had its desired effect, helping the resuscitation.
The patient was intubated and therefore not at olfactory risk
A paediatric trauma centre study showed that in their system, seven people at the bedside was the optimum number to get tasks done in a paediatric resuscitation. As numbers increased beyond this, there were ‘diminishing marginal returns’, ie. the output (tasks completed) generated from an additional unit of input (extra people) decreases as the quantity of the input rises.
The authors comment that after a saturation point is reached, “additional team members contribute negative returns, resulting in fewer tasks completed by teams with the most members. This pattern has been demonstrated in other medical groups, with larger surgical teams having prolonged operative times and larger paramedic crews delaying the performance of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
There are several possible explanations:
crowding limits access to the patient or equipment;
“social loafing”- staff may feel less accountable for the overall group performance and less pressure to accomplish individual tasks;
seven is the number recommended in that institution’s trauma activation protocol, with optimal role allocation described for a team of that size;
teams with redundant personnel may experience role confusion and fragmentation, resulting in both repetition and omission of tasks.
In my view, excessive team size results in there being more individuals to supervise & monitor, and hence a greater cognitive load for the team leader (cue the resus safety officer). More crowding and obstruction threatens situational awareness. There is more difficulty in providing clear uninterrupted closed loop communication. And general resuscitation room entropy increases, requiring more energy to contain or reverse it.
However, for paediatric resuscitations requiring optimal concurrent activity to progress the resuscitation, I do struggle with less than five. Unless of course I’m in my HEMS role, when the paramedic and I just crack on.
More on Making Things Happen in resus. Own The Resus talk Resus Room Management site Factors Affecting Team Size and Task Performance in Pediatric Trauma Resuscitation. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2014 Mar 19. [Epub ahead of print]
OBJECTIVES: Varying team size based on anticipated injury acuity is a common method for limiting personnel during trauma resuscitation. While missing personnel may delay treatment, large teams may worsen care through role confusion and interference. This study investigates factors associated with varying team size and task completion during trauma resuscitation. METHODS: Video-recorded resuscitations of pediatric trauma patients (n = 201) were reviewed for team size (bedside and total) and completion of 24 resuscitation tasks. Additional patient characteristics were abstracted from our trauma registry. Linear regression was used to assess which characteristics were associated with varying team size and task completion. Task completion was then analyzed in relation to team size using best-fit curves. RESULTS: The average bedside team ranged from 2.7 to 10.0 members (mean, 6.5 [SD, 1.7]), with 4.3 to 17.7 (mean, 11.0 [SD, 2.8]) people total. More people were present during high-acuity activations (+4.9, P < 0.001) and for patients with a penetrating injury (+2.3, P = 0.002). Fewer people were present during activations without prearrival notification (-4.77, P < 0.001) and at night (-1.25, P = 0.002). Task completion in the first 2 minutes ranged from 4 to 19 (mean, 11.7 [SD, 3.8]). The maximum number of tasks was performed at our hospital by teams with 7 people at the bedside (13 total). CONCLUSIONS: Resuscitation task completion varies by team size, with a nonlinear association between number of team members and completed tasks. Management of team size during high-acuity activations, those without prior notification, and those in which the patient has a penetrating injury may help optimize performance.