Human factors enablers and barriers for successful airway management - an in-depth interview study

R. Schnittker, S. Marshall, T. Horberry, K. L. Young

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Human factors are the individual, team, environmental and organisational aspects of the anaesthetic environment that affect performance and decision-making of anaesthesia teams. This study aimed to identify which human factors were enablers and/or barriers to anaesthesia teams during airway management challenges. Sixteen interviews were conducted with experienced anaesthetists and anaesthetic nurses using an in-depth interview technique (the Critical Decision Method) to identify human factors enablers and/or barriers during successful management of a significant airway challenge. Thematic analysis identified three overarching enablers: equipment location and storage; experience and learning; teamwork and communication. Five overarching barriers were also identified: time and resource limitations; teamwork and communication; equipment location and storage; experience and learning; insufficient back-up planning; and equipment preparation. This study showed that a variety of human factors issues affect the handling of airway challenges, ranging from individual and team to organisational and environmental aspects. Recommendations for the design of airway management decision support tools that relate to equipment standardisation, decision support complexity, inclusive mutual learning and teamwork are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)980-989
Number of pages10
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • Airway management
  • Decision making
  • Human factors

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