Like many of you, I’ve spent my evenings the past week or so watching the Winter Olympics. While I’m not much of a winter-sport athlete myself, I generally enjoy watching the skiing and skating events. However, this Olympic Games, I discovered my new favorite event—curling.
While I am certainly not an expert in curling (I just learned the rules last week), I can explain the general rules for those who may be unfamiliar with the sport. How it works is two teams play against each other, and each team consists of four players. The game is played on ice and the teams take turns pushing 19.1-kilogram stones towards a series of concentric rings, or circles. The goal is to get the stones as close to the center of the rings as possible.
Once the stone is thrown, team members can sweep the ice in front of the stone to control its direction—the “curl”—and its speed. The goal is to score points by placing your team’s stones in the rings, but you also must strategically place your stones so that the other team cannot score or knock your stones out of the circles.
What draws me in to curling is the strategy behind it. One of my favorite parts of watching curling is when a team calls a timeout and we can hear them discussing the best spot to place their stone. It’s usually not a coach or one leader telling the rest what to do. Instead, it’s collaboration among all of the team members to decide the best strategy.
Now, while I’ve spent my evenings lately watching curling, I also spend 40+ hours a week working on a surgical magazine. So, my mind tends to think about how things I watch or see—such as curling—could relate to surgery.
And actually, curling and surgery have some very strong similarities. In fact, the basic essentials that make a curling team any good are the same necessities as in an OR to make a surgical case go smoothly and successfully.
First, you need a good thrower. In the OR, that would be the surgeon. This person, while he/she relies on the whole team to get the job done, really has ultimate control of the most important tool. It’s up to this person to place these tools and instruments correctly and in the areas that will allow for the procedure to be successful.
That said, a good curling team needs the sweepers—the rest of the team, to get the stone to its destination, regardless of how great a throw the thrower provides. In the OR, the surgeon needs his/her “sweepers”—the OR staff—to do the same thing, gather tools and instruments, maintain monitors and sponge counts, etc. to ensure the operation is efficient, safe and always headed in the right direction.
Finally, the third comparison comes back to one of my favorite elements of curling—the time out. During the timeout, curling the team works together and communicates to find the best strategy for placing their stone. Before that stone is thrown, everyone should agree and be on the same page. In surgery, it’s important the OR team also takes a timeout. Here, everyone must communicate vital information about the procedure, agree on what they are doing, and be on the same page to ensure the team is doing all and everything they can for the surgery to be successful.
In the end, I think a surgical procedure can be compared to really any team sport. The basic principles essential to success are the same—leadership, teamwork and communication. Only when these are all in place can a team—be it surgical or curling in the Olympics—see true success.
Are you also a curling fan? Have you experienced the importance of teamwork in the OR? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org