Critical Role of the Surgeon–Anesthesiologist Relationship for Patient Safety

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Teamwork is now recognized as important for safe, high-quality perioperative care. The relationship in each surgeon–anesthesiologist dyad is perhaps the most critical element of overall team performance. A well-functioning relationship is conducive to safe, effective care. A dysfunctional relationship can promote unsafe conditions and contribute to an adverse outcome. Yet, there is little research about this relationship, about what works well or not well, what can be done to optimize it. This article explores functional and dysfunctional aspects of the relationship, identifies some negative stereotypes each profession has of the other and calls for research to better characterize and understand how to improve working relationships. Suggestions are given for what an ideal relationship might be and actions that surgeons and anesthesiologists can take to improve how they work together. The goal is safer care for patients, and more joy and meaning in work for surgeons and anesthesiologists.

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