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How one doctor is changing patient safety around the world

ROB HACKETT
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And it all boils down to something very personal.

Going to a hospital can be a traumatic experience — even when it’s for a happy occasion like welcoming a new baby into the world. With all the complex medical terms and the sterile scrubs worn by staff, it’s no wonder that patients and medical professionals seem worlds apart. But thanks to an ingenious and really simple idea by Australian anesthetist, Dr. Rob Hackett, patients are able to identify more with their caregivers — and lives are being saved because of that.

In a bid to end confusion in the operating theater, Hackett decided to write his name clearly on his cap, indicating his profession. So in the middle of surgery, each member of the staff could easily identify who he was. Now he’s challenging the medical profession to adopt this on a global scale through the #TheatreCapChallenge. This initiative, from the PatientSafe Network, addresses “concerns about how easily avoidable mistakes and poor communication are contributing to rising adverse events for our patients,” Dr. Hackett explained to Bored Panda.

In the midst of an operation, simply being able to get the attention of the right person can save a life. In a busy theater where many staff might be working, there’s potential for confusion — just think how many times we get our own kids’ names wrong! That split-second of calling out the right name may just save a life. Dr. Hackett provides a perfect example: “I went to a cardiac arrest in a theatre where there were about 20 people in the room. I struggled to even ask to be passed some gloves because the person I was pointing to thought I was pointing to the person behind them.”

Although Hackett’s idea was met with disparaging comments by his colleagues at first, the initiative is now being picked up on a global scale with positive results from medical professionals and patients alike. In fact, Hackett points out that studies made in the US and the UK have shown that writing a name on a cap is actually reducing human errors while treating patients. This is thanks to staff having a greater ability to recall each other’s names, and greater attention being paid during role introductions when the medical team runs through the surgical safety checklist. 

While patient safety is paramount, the act of letting patients — who are often groggy, scared, or overwhelmed during treatment — know the name of those caring for them is a way to create a more personal touch. By breaking down that initial barrier, it might even encourage patients to feel more comfortable seeking advice, or to confide in their medical professionals.

The personalized caps are also reusable, saving thousands of dollars on disposable caps while also benefiting the environment. And if that’s not enough, the campaign is also inviting doctors and nurses around the world to post selfies of themselves donning their personalized caps with huge smiles on their faces, demonstrating the very human side of this caring profession.

Read more: Pope says caregivers are like Mary at the foot of the Cross

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