Crisis Resource Management (CRM)


  • Crisis Resource Management (CRM) refers to the non-technical skills required for effective teamwork in a crisis situation
  • In addition to the nature of the task itself, numerous factors affect the performance of complex tasks at the level of the individual, team and the environment
  • CRM originated with Crew (or ‘Cockpit’) Resource Management training developed by the aviation industry in the 1970s following the realisation that 70% of airline crashes were due to human error resulting from teamwork failure
  • CRM training improves performance and reduces errors (settings include the emergency department, trauma teams and rapid response teams)



  • complexity
  • high stakes (e.g. life-threatening illness; medico-legal implications)
  • time-critical
  • incomplete information

Individual (e.g. HALTS – hungry, angry, late, tired or stressed)

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Emotional disturbance (e.g. angry, stressed)
  • Ill health and physical distress
  • Inexperience
  • Lack of knowledge


  • Role confusion
  • High power distance/ authority gradient
  • Ineffective communication techniques
  • Dysfunctional relationships


  • Interruptions
  • Noise
  • Handovers
  • Production pressure (e.g. deadlines, quotas)
  • Equipment failure
  • Unfamiliar place and equipment


Rall and Gaba (2005) have identified the followed 15 key principles:

  1. Know the environment
  2. Anticipate and plan
  3. Call for help early
  4. Exercise leadership and followership
  5. Distribute the workload
  6. Mobilise all available resources
  7. Communicate effectively
  8. Use all available information
  9. Prevent and manage fixation errors
  10. Cross (double) check
  11. Use cognitive aids
  12. Re-evaluate repeatedly
  13. Use good teamwork
  14. Allocate attention wisely
  15. Set priorities dynamically

However, I prefer to nest these key principles under the following headings:

  1. Know your environment
  2. Anticipate, share and review the plan
  3. Provide effective leadership
  4. Ensure role clarity and good teamwork
  5. Communicate effectively
  6. Call for help early
  7. Allocate attention wisely – avoid fixation
  8. Distribute the workload – monitor and support team members


  • Know the location and function of equipment, especially for time-critical procedures
  • Logically structured, well-labelled environment
  • Use cognitive aids, e.g. equipment maps
  • Regular training
  • Know the role and level of experience of team members (role confusion is common in the resus room setting)


  • Think ahead and plan for all contingencies
  • Set priorities dynamically
  • Re-evaluate periodically
  • Anticipate delays
  • Use call-and-respond checklists
  • Share the plan with others – sharing the mental model facilitates effective action towards a common goal
  • Think out loud and provide periodic briefings to verbalise priorities, goals and clinical findings as they change
  • Encourage team members to share relevant thoughts and plans
  • Continually review the plan based on observations and response to treatment


  • Employ the least confrontational approach consistent with the goal
  • Participative decision making improves team buy in
  • Use a direct, authoritative approach when necessary (e.g. time critical situations)
  • Establish behavioural and performance expectations of team members
  • Establish and maintain the team’s shared mental model of what is happening and the team’s goals
  • Monitor the external and internal environments of the team to avoid being caught off guard
  • Leader provides debriefing after the crisis


  • Allocate team roles
  • If team roles are changed during a task, ensure there is explicit handover (e.g. “Joanna will take over as team leader, while I help with the difficult airway”)
  • Team members should show good followership and be active – each observes and monitors events and advocates or asserts corrective actions
  • Team members including the Leader need to be able to recognise when they are affected by stress, and develop appropriate self-care behaviours
  • All team members – Leaders and Followers – are equally responsible for ensuring good patient outcomes


  • Distribute needed information to team members and update the shared mental model
  • Use closed loop communication
  • Be assertive, not aggressive or submissive
  • Avoid personal attacks
  • Resolve conflict
  • Maintain relationships
  • Facilitate collaborative efforts working towards a common goal
  • Cross (double) check with team members
  • Avoid unnecessary mitigating language (‘whimperatives’, e.g. “if possible, would you mind attempting an IV cannula, if that is not too much trouble?)


  • Be aware of barriers to asking for help (e.g. fear of criticism or losing face)
  • Set predefined criteria for asking for help
  • Call for help early
  • Mobilize all available resources


  • Be aware of ‘fixation error’ that reduces situational awareness
  • Prioritize tasks and focus on the most important task at hand
  • Delegate tasks to others
  • Use all available information
  • Ensure monitors are continually observed and assessments repeated periodically (e.g. blood pressure cuff set to auto-cycle every 2 minutes)


  • Team Leader is ‘hands off’ — stands back whenever possible to maintain situational awareness and oversee the team
  • Assign tasks according to the defined roles of the team
  • Team Leader supports team members in their tasks
  • Reallocate roles as tasks are completed or evolve in complexity


Dr Christopher Gallagher illustrates the basics of CRM:

References and Links


Journal Articles and Textbooks

  • Bleetman A, Sanusi S, Dale T, Brace S. Human factors and error prevention in emergency medicine. Emerg Med J. 2012 May;29(5):389-93. doi: 10.1136/emj.2010.107698. Epub 2011 May 12. Review. PubMed PMID: 21565880.
  • Carne B, Kennedy M, Gray T. Review article: Crisis resource management in emergency medicine. Emerg Med Australas. 2012 Feb;24(1):7-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-6723.2011.01495.x. Epub 2011 Oct 13. Review. PubMed PMID: 22313554.
  • Gaba DM. Crisis resource management and teamwork training in anaesthesia. Br J Anaesth. 2010 Jul;105(1):3-6. doi: 10.1093/bja/aeq124. PubMed PMID: 20551023. [Free Full Text]
  • Haerkens MH, Jenkins DH, van der Hoeven JG. Crew resource management in the ICU: the need for culture change. Ann Intensive Care. 2012 Aug 22;2(1):39. doi: 10.1186/2110-5820-2-39. PubMed PMID: 22913855; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3488012.
  • Rall M, Gaba DM. Human Performance and Patient Safety, in Miller’s Anaesthesia, 6th edition, Elsevier, 2005
  • Reason J. Understanding adverse events: human factors. Qual Health Care. 1995 Jun;4(2):80-9. PubMed PMID: 10151618; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1055294.
  • St Pierre M, Hofinger G, Buerschaper C, Simon R. Crisis Management in Acute Care Settings: Human Factors, Team Psychology, and Patient Safety in a High Stakes Environment. (2nd edn) Springer, 2011.

FOAM and Web Resources

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Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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