Identifying the nontechnical skills required of nurses in general surgical wards

Dianne C. Marshall, Mary P. Finlayson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Aims and objectives: To identify the nontechnical skills (NTS) required of nurses in general surgical wards for safe and effective care. 

    Background: As the largest occupational group, nurses are in an ideal position to block the vulnerabilities of patient adverse events in a surgical ward. Previous studies in the surgical environment have identified the NTS required of nurses for safe care in operating rooms; however, these skills have not been identified for nurses in general surgical wards. 

    Design: A nonparticipant observational descriptive design was used. 

    Method: A purposive sample of 15 registered nurses was recruited from four surgical wards and observed for a full shift on a morning, afternoon or night shift. Nonparticipant observations were conducted using field notes to collect data. A coding frame was developed, and an inductive process was used to analyse the data. 

    Results: A taxonomy comprising seven NTS required of nurses in their roles in surgical ward teams emerged from the data analysis. They are communication, leadership and management, planning, decision-making, situation awareness, teamwork and patient advocacy. 

    Conclusion: Patient care provided by general surgical nurses involved the seven identified key NTS. These particular NTS are an important component of safe nursing practice as they underpin the provision of safe and effective care for general surgical patients. Nurses block the trajectory of error by using NTS to address the vulnerabilities in the system that can lead to adverse patient events. 

    Relevance to clinical practice: Identifying general surgical nurses’ NTS enables the development of teaching strategies that target the learning of those skills to achieve successful work outcomes and improve patient safety.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1475-1487
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
    Issue number7-8
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2018


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