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      Trauma team leaders’ non-verbal communication: video registration during trauma team training

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          There is widespread consensus on the importance of safe and secure communication in healthcare, especially in trauma care where time is a limiting factor. Although non-verbal communication has an impact on communication between individuals, there is only limited knowledge of how trauma team leaders communicate. The purpose of this study was to investigate how trauma team members are positioned in the emergency room, and how leaders communicate in terms of gaze direction, vocal nuances, and gestures during trauma team training.


          Eighteen trauma teams were audio and video recorded during trauma team training in the emergency department of a hospital in northern Sweden. Quantitative content analysis was used to categorize the team members’ positions and the leaders’ non-verbal communication: gaze direction, vocal nuances, and gestures. The quantitative data were interpreted in relation to the specific context. Time sequences of the leaders’ gaze direction, speech time, and gestures were identified separately and registered as time (seconds) and proportions (%) of the total training time.


          The team leaders who gained control over the most important area in the emergency room, the “inner circle”, positioned themselves as heads over the team, using gaze direction, gestures, vocal nuances, and verbal commands that solidified their verbal message. Changes in position required both attention and collaboration. Leaders who spoke in a hesitant voice, or were silent, expressed ambiguity in their non-verbal communication: and other team members took over the leader’s tasks.


          In teams where the leader had control over the inner circle, the members seemed to have an awareness of each other’s roles and tasks, knowing when in time and where in space these tasks needed to be executed. Deviations in the leaders’ communication increased the ambiguity in the communication, which had consequences for the teamwork. Communication cannot be taken for granted; it needs to be practiced regularly just as technical skills need to be trained. Simulation training provides healthcare professionals the opportunity to put both verbal and non-verbal communication in focus, in order to improve patient safety.


          Non-verbal communication plays a decisive role in the interaction between the trauma team members, and so both verbal and non-verbal communication should be in focus in trauma team training. This is even more important for inexperienced leaders, since vague non-verbal communication reinforces ambiguity and can lead to errors.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology

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            Communication failures: an insidious contributor to medical mishaps.

            To describe how communication failures contribute to many medical mishaps. In late 1999, a sample of 26 residents stratified by medical specialty, year of residency, and gender was randomly selected from a population of 85 residents at a 600-bed U.S. teaching hospital. The study design involved semistructured face-to-face interviews with the residents about their routine work environments and activities, the medical mishaps in which they recently had been involved, and a description of both the individual and organizational contributory factors. The themes reported here emerged from inductive analyses of the data. Residents reported a total of 70 mishap incidents. Aspects of "communication" and "patient management" were the two most commonly cited contributing factors. Residents described themselves as embedded in a complex network of relationships, playing a pivotal role in patient management vis-à-vis other medical staff and health care providers from within the hospital and from the community. Recurring patterns of communication difficulties occur within these relationships and appear to be associated with the occurrence of medical mishaps. The occurrence of everyday medical mishaps in this study is associated with faulty communication; but, poor communication is not simply the result of poor transmission or exchange of information. Communication failures are far more complex and relate to hierarchical differences, concerns with upward influence, conflicting roles and role ambiguity, and interpersonal power and conflict. A clearer understanding of these dynamics highlights possibilities for appropriate interventions in medical education and in health care organizations aimed at improving patient safety.
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              Communication failures in the operating room: an observational classification of recurrent types and effects

               L. Lingard (2004)

                Author and article information

                +46 90 786 90 68 ,
                Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med
                Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med
                Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
                BioMed Central (London )
                25 March 2016
                25 March 2016
                : 24
                [ ]Department of Nursing, Umeå University, S-90187 Umeå, Sweden
                [ ]Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Umeå University, S-90185 Umeå, Sweden
                [ ]Department of Social Work, Umeå University, S-90187 Umeå, Sweden
                © Härgestam et al. 2016

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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