My Husband Burned the Pot — Another Thought

Yesterday I wrote about a conjugal culinary episode and its connection to patient safety.  What I left out was the fact that my husband and I — novice and expert — failed to share the same mental model of the situation with which we were dealing.  In healthcare — and marriage — you have to form teams and the hallmark of a team is that you share the same mental model.  The AHRQ/DOD team curriculum TeamSTEPPS defines a shared mental model as “The mental picture or sketch of the relevant facts and relationships defining an event, situation, or problem.”  It goes on to say that “shared mental models are sustained by the following:

The process of planning, team decision-making, and vocalizing.” (TeamSTEPPS 06.1 Situation Monitoring, p17.)

This is, of course, totally true.  But another thing that a shared mental model depends on is experience.  No expert can share the whole universe of consequences and implications that they envision and have gathered from years of mistake/success making.  This is why it is so important to have the right blend of experts and novices at the bedside.  Of course, it’s also important for the expert to explain as much as possible to the novice so that he or she can do the job correctly.  I probably could have explained things to my husband in a way that helped him understand what was at stake.  What one constantly has to be aware of is the fact of inexperience — or experience — and how that affects what the information that we need to share in order to create the shared mental model upon which high reliability depends.

Leave a Comment