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Handbook for surgeons identifies important non-technical skills

When Pennsylvania residents enter hospitals for surgical procedures, they put their trust in the doctors and staff in the operating room. Medical personnel occasionally make errors, and sometimes the mistakes can involve simple human error or problems with teamwork. A new handbook published in the United Kingdom focuses on these types of non-technical errors and encourages surgeons to learn how to identify them.

The book is the result of research that identified and evaluated non-technical skills such as communication and cognitive abilities. The researchers identified problems caused by such errors. These included wrong-site surgery, drug errors, swabs or instruments left in the patient's body, infections that could have been avoided and even death. The information in the book has already been used by professional medical groups in the UK and other countries.

The book focuses on surgeons and explains non-technical skills and their importance in providing safe procedures to patients. The research behind the book, which also focused on anesthetists and other operating room staff, has been presented in workshops across the globe over the past 12 years.

Injuries caused by surgical error can be disabling or even life-threatening. When someone is injured by a medical mistake, they may incur high costs for further treatment, pain and suffering, time lost from work or even job loss. Medical malpractice law focuses on the rights of individuals who have been injured by medical errors. Non-technical mistakes such as those covered in the surgeons' handbook could be considered medical error if they happened during the course of medical treatment. Someone who has been injured by medical error or negligence may be entitled to compensation.

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