Flying Lessons: Crew Resource Management in Healthcare

In 1977, two Boeing 747s collided on a runway in the Canary Islands, killing 582 people. It was the largest accident in aviation history and it led to an industry-wide examination on the cause of aviation accidents. It turned out that up to 80 percent of aviation accidents were caused by human error. This revelation prompted NASA to convene an aviation safety workshop in 1979, which led to the development of Crew Resource Management (CRM), an error-reducing method that has revolutionized air travel safety. In following aviation’s lead, CRM was first applied to healthcare in the operating room of University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, in 1994. In 2001, the IOM recommended that this type of training be used to increase patient safety and it also advocated by the National Academies, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Today, CRM training programs are being used in a variety of healthcare settings, including operating rooms, anesthesia departments, emergency departments, intensive care units, and labor and delivery departments.

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