Top Guns in the OR? To be the Best in Patient Safety, High Tech Hospital Learns From the Best in the Cockpit

Share Article

One in three Americans say they have been affected by medical errors. Vassar Brothers Medical Center hires former Top Gun fighter pilots to provide teamwork training to surgeons and staff to take patient safety to the next level in their operating rooms.

A recent report by The Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that one in three Americans has been affected by a medical error. In New York alone, nearly 60,000 individuals encounter a medical mishap a year, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM). Under the backdrop of increased public unease regarding medical errors, Vassar Brothers Medical Center (VBMC), an academic medical center in Poughkeepsie, NY set a goal to become the safest surgical service center in the nation. To achieve their goal they developed one of most sophisticated operating rooms in the world. Their technology brings special lighting, in-room cameras, and flat screen monitors to the operating room. Realizing that even high-tech systems can fail, VBMC decided to follow the model used by commercial aviation to ensure safety and reliability for its patients.

The aviation design combines the latest technology advancements with comprehensive teamwork training for flight crews and mechanics. This combination has resulted in a dramatic decrease in aviation accidents.

To adapt this model for their operating rooms, VBMC contracted with LifeWings Partners LLC to provide customized, on-site aviation-based training and safety tools known as Crew Resource Management (CRM). LifeWings Partners is composed of experienced military and commercial pilots, former astronauts, and skilled physicians who specialize in teamwork tactics and effective communication strategies.

Captain Stephen Harden, a former Navy Top Gun pilot and President of LifeWings Partners said, “VBMC realized they had to adopt the best practices of other high reliability organizations like aviation to reach their goal. They wanted to make sure they didn’t contribute to the appalling statistics about Americans who have suffered from medical mistakes.”

VMBC is at the forefront of a huge cultural shift in healthcare. The safest hospitals are moving away from an antiquated culture of poor teamwork and communication, which has plagued the medical community for years. Paul Corish, Director of Surgical Services at VBMC agreed, “I would have to say that LifeWings has hardwired our operating room for safety! I believe that any healthcare organization that does not take the LifeWings message to heart, is certain to experience a poor outcome.”

VBMC is setting the tone for healthcare quality and safety standards. “I would not be surprised to see them take the lead in national patient safety due to their devotion to safety and the use of our preemptive, mutually developed, surgical safety protocols developed on site,” said Mike Osborn, Vice President of LifeWings Partners LLC. “Another hospital that has implemented the LifeWings program has recently been ranked the safest hospital in America by a leading patient safety organization.”

About LifeWings Partners LLC:

LifeWings Partners LLC was founded in 1999 by a former U.S. Navy flight instructor and commercial airline pilot. The firm specializes in applying CRM based training to help healthcare facilities save lives and reduce costs. The firm has helped over 40 facilities nationwide provide better care to their patients. Measurable results are found in many LifeWings initiatives including one hospital that reduced its surgery error rate from one every 60 days to one every 619 days, 10 times better than the national average. The firm also conducts “bootcamp” sessions to teach physicians from different facilities better communication and leadership skills.


Richard Clark

Vice President

LifeWings Partners LLC


# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Richard Clark
Visit website