September 19, 2023

Leadership session: Managing Disruptive Behavior—A New Approach to Better Communication

Editor's Note

“The OR is an inherently stressful environment,” Jessica Atkinson, BSN, BSAVS, RN, CNOR, nurse manager, operating room, at Maine Medical Center, told attendees on Tuesday morning at the OR Manager Conference. The session delved into how both new and experienced leaders need to recognize and manage disruptive behavior in the OR as it is “essential to the wellbeing of a team.” Disruptive behavior varies in both form and severity, she shared, adding that there are covert forms of this behavior, such as questioning someone’s guidance or causing distractions. 

Whatever the disruptive behavior may look like in an OR setting, the effects are “systemic and can hurt the whole organization.” Atkinson shared her experience as a leader at Southern Maine Health Care and how the implementation of regular debriefings after delivering patient care has helped mitigate these behaviors. “The impact of one’s actions can be made better through debriefing,” she noted, also expressing how this has been crucial to keeping an open forum of communication and decreasing the cognitive load of staff.

“The goal was to debrief 100% of the time after an OR case,” she said. For each debrief, teams communicated about any complications that may have impacted patient care. While some of these issues have simple solutions, such as problems with equipment or supplies, the debrief also covers any complications with teamwork, personnel and overall efficiency. Atkinson shared that these debriefings improved overall staff wellbeing, patient safety and employee satisfaction. 

At the beginning of the session, the attendees were given a poll to determine how many of them in the room have regular debriefings after an OR case; 60% answered no. When given a final poll at the end of the session, nearly 100% of the attendees confirmed that implementing regular debriefings would likely improve patient safety and overall staff morale. 



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