Patients who are taken to the operating room can’t watch what’s going on or speak up if something isn’t going as it should. They are at the mercy of the medical professional people who are working on them. These individuals should be able to communicate freely and work as a team, but this doesn’t always happen.

Poor communication is one cause of surgical errors. Each person who is in the room has a specific job to do, and part of this involves letting others know what’s going on. For example, if the nurse doesn’t relay a patient’s vital signs, the surgeon and anesthesiologist might not know that there is something that requires their attention.

The need for communication begins before the patient is taken to the operating room. Before the procedure, a staff member should verify the patient’s identity and the information about the surgery. Each facility must have a protocol in place for how this is done.

Once the patient is in the operating room, there should be a pause that enables everyone to double-check on their duties. Information about the procedure should be read out loud so that anyone who is in the room can speak up if there is something incorrect said.

Throughout the procedure, team members should speak up about things like the location of surgical supplies, including instruments and sponges. A running count must be kept of these to reduce the chance of one being left in the patient when the surgery is over.

When a patient suffers harm on the operating table, the question of why is going to come up. This is the basis of improvements in patient care, and it is also the backbone of a legal claim for compensation if necessary.