Second-year Neurosurgery Department resident Youssef Hamade, MD, MS, made a recommendation recently that could result in improved communication – and enhanced patient safety – in neurosurgical operating rooms at University of Minnesota Medical Center. And it’s as simple as wearing a specially designed hat.

“I got the idea from having worked at the University of Iowa,” he said. “Residents there are given customized scrub hats with a different theme and color each year.” It made the residents stand out in the operating room, so it was easy to identify neurosurgical team members.

“It is important to be able to identify people for many reasons,” Hamade explained. “For example, identifying people and staff in the OR facilitates communication. After all, good communication prevents errors and maximizes patient safety.” It also helps avoid confusion over roles in the operating room.

“In addition, I think patients and their families appreciate knowing what teams are involved in their care,” said Hamade. “It would give them a way to remember us, because I'm sure they'll be talking to many care team members and they may forget who they had conversations with.”

Hamade took his idea to Residency Program Director Matthew Hunt, MD, who suggested writing names on the hats, so everyone could be easily identified (Hamade's name is visible on the right side of the hat).

Hamade designed the new scrub hat and sent it to a local embroiderer for customization. With help from Executive Administrative Assistant Zhac Rhakonen, they hope to have the hats ready for all Neurosurgery Department faculty, residents, and OR staff by the end of February 2019.