What non-technical skills competencies are addressed by Australian standards documents for health professionals who work in secondary and tertiary clinical settings? A qualitative comparative analysis.
Objectives: At minimum, safe patient outcomes are recognised as resulting from a combination of technical and non-technical skills. Flin and colleagues provide a practical framework of non-technical skills, cognitive, social and interpersonal, that complement technical skills, with categories identified as situational awareness, communication, team working, decision-making, leadership, coping with stress and managing fatigue. The aim of this research was to explore the alignment of categories and elements of non-technical skills with those in the published standards documents of several health professions in Australia. Design: A qualitative comparative analysis using document analysis and deductive coding examined, extracted and interpreted data from competency standards documents focusing on non-technical skills categories and elements. Participants: A purposive sample of 11 health professions competency standards documents required for registration in Australia. Findings: The 11 competency standards documents contained 1616 statements. Although standards documents addressed all non-technical skills categories, there was limited reporting of managing stress and coping with fatigue. Of the 31 elements included in the non-technical skills framework, 22 were not common to all health professions and 3 elements were missing from the standards documents. Additionally, the documents were composed differently with no common taxonomy and multifaceted statements. Conclusion: While commonalities identified in the standards documents related to non-technical skills categories are likely to support patient safety, gaps in associated elements may undermine their effectiveness. The notable lack of reference to stress and fatigue requires further attention for health professional well-being in Australia. A shared taxonomy with clear statements may offer the best support for collaborative practice and positive patient outcomes. Competency standards need to be flexible to respond to the emerging demands of current healthcare practice along with consumer and health service needs.