Why Surgeons Are Writing Their Names on Their Hats—and Taking Selfies

December 12, 2017 Updated: December 12, 2017

At first glance, they look like photos of a Christmas party game—people wearing horrible-looking colorful hats with names and jobs scrawled across their foreheads.

But behind the smiles, the purpose is very serious.

A growing number of surgery teams around the world are posting these odd pictures to social media, after a ruse by a surgeon in Australia went viral.

It isn’t the way most of us would choose to be reminded of our colleagues’ names and professions.

But for surgeons, the few seconds’ delay caused by not knowing the names of your team could be a matter of life and death.

To save those precious moments, anesthetist Rob Hackett from Sydney hit upon the hat-naming idea.

“When you work across four or five hospitals and with hundreds of people, I’d say 75 percent of staff I walk past I don’t know their name. It’s quite awkward,” Hackett told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Last Friday I went to a cardiac arrest in a theatre where there were about 20 people in the room. I struggled to even ask to be passed some gloves because the person I was pointing to thought I was pointing to the person behind them.”

These issues could be a matter of life and death in the middle of surgery.

When he started to wear a hat emblazoned with the words “Rob” and “anesthetist” Hackett got a few odd remarks.

“You look a little daft because not everyone is doing it,” Hackett said.

“There were some snide remarks, like ‘can’t you remember your name’.”

But then the idea began to catch on and, fueled by pictures spread on social media, found its way to other countries.

Surgical staff from Australia, the UK, U.S., Europe and South America have shared images of their own name-caps on social media, using the hashtag later picked up by the trend: #TheatreCapChallenge.

The idea has been endorsed by the UK Royal College of Surgeons, reports the Times.

“It’s so much easier to coordinate when you know everyone’s names,” said Hackett. “It’s great for camaraderie and it’s great for patients as well.”

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