Background: Surgical performance, provider health, and patient safety can be compromised when workload demands exceed individual capability on the surgical team. The purpose of this study is to quantify and compare intraoperative workload among surgical team members. Methods: Observations were conducted for an entire surgical day for 33 participating surgeons and their surgical team at one medical institution. Workload (mental, physical, case complexity, distractions, and case difficulty) was measured for each surgical team member using questions from validated questionnaires. Statistical analyses were performed with a mixed effects model. Results: A total of 192 surgical team members participated in 78 operative cases, and 344 questionnaires were collected. Procedures with high surgeon mental and physical workload included endovascular and gastric surgeries, respectively. Ratings did not differ significantly among surgeons and residents, but scrub nurses physical demand ratings were 14–22 (out of 100) points lower than the surgeons, residents, and surgical assistants. Residents reported the highest mental workload, averaging 19–24 points higher than surgical assistants, scrub nurses, and circulating nurses. Mental and physical demands exceeded 50 points 28–45 % of the time for surgeons and residents. Workload did not differ between minimally invasive and open techniques. Conclusion: The workload questionnaires are an effective tool for quantifying intraoperative workload across the surgical team to ensure mental and physical demands do not exceed thresholds where performance may decrease and injury risk increase. This tool has the potential to measure the safety of current procedures and drive design of workload interventions.
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