Kathy Nabbie reflects on the recent flights caught up in Storm Dennis and how 'routine' quickly became 'out of the ordinary'. As with aviation, in surgery we must always do the safety checks for each patient to ensure that every journey for the patient is a safe one.
Recently Dr Peter Brennan tweeted a video of a plane landing at Heathrow airport during Storm Dennis. I looked at this with emotion, and with hundreds of in-flight safety information, human factors, communication and interpersonal skills running through my head.
I thought of the pilot and his crew, the cabin crew attendants and the passengers, and how scared and worried they would have felt. On a flight, the attendants will take us through the safety procedures before take off. We are all guilty, I am sure, of partly listening because it is routine and we have heard it all before. Then suddenly we are in the midst of a violent storm and we need to utilise that information! We ardently listen to the attendants instructions and pray for the captain to land the plane safely, which he does with great skill!
I now want to link this scenario to the care of our patients in the operating theatre. They are also on a journey to a destination of a safe recovery and they depend on the consultants and the team to get them there safely.
Despite being routine, we need to do all the safety checks for each patient and follow the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist as it is written: ask all the questions, involve all members of the surgical team, even do the fire risk assessment score if it is implemented in your theatre.
The pilot of that flight during Storm Dennis certainly did not think he was on a routine flight. He had a huge responsibility for the lives of his crew and many passengers!
We can only operate on one patient at a time. Always remember, even though the operation may be routine for us, it may be the first time for the patient – so let's make it a safe journey for each patient.
Do it right all the time!