Why one Michigan hospital uses a gong in the OR

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Timeouts are an important part of any surgical procedure, designed keep patients safe and prevent wrong-site, wrong-procedure or wrong-patient surgery. One hospital in Warren, Mich., has incorporated an unusual instrument in its timeout process: a Tibetan gong.

Staff in ORs at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital strike the gong before starting the timeout process in an attempt to get everyone engaged with the patient safety step.

"Striking the gong symbolizes the beginning of a spiritual event, prayer, meditation or ceremony," said Erica Brenckle, a nurse in the hospital's cath lab. "The energy and vibration that are formed clears the mind, enhances focus and connects the energy in the room."

She says that "incorporating the gong in the timeout process has improved the engagement of our staff in the cardiac cath lab, which ultimately improves patient safety."

Ms. Brenckle and her colleague Delia Gealer, RN, came up with the gong idea, which was first implemented in the cath lab but has since been incorporated into the timeout process in ORs and the endoscopy department at the hospital.

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