Communication errors can reduce patient safety, especially in emergency situations that require rapid responses by experts in a number of medical specialties. Talking to each other is crucial for utilizing the collective expertise of the team. Here we explored the functions of “team talk” (talking between team members) with an emphasis on the talk-work relationship in interdisciplinary emergency teams.
Five interdisciplinary medical emergency teams were observed and videotaped during in situ simulations at an emergency department at a university hospital in Norway. Team talk and simultaneous actions were transcribed and analysed. We used qualitative discourse analysis to perform structural mapping of the team talk and to analyse the function of online commentaries (real-time observations and assessments of observations based on relevant cues in the clinical situation).
Structural mapping revealed recurring and diverse patterns. Team expansion stood out as a critical phase in the teamwork. Online commentaries that occurred during the critical phase served several functions and demonstrated the inextricable interconnections between team talk and actions.
Discourse analysis allowed us to capture the dynamics and complexity of team talk during a simulated emergency situation. Even though the team talk did not follow a predefined structure, the team members managed to manoeuvre safely within the complex situation. Our results support that online commentaries contributes to shared team situation awareness.
Discourse analysis reveals naturally occurring communication strategies that trigger actions relevant for safe practice and thus provides supplemental insights into what comprises “good” team communication in medical emergencies.