What Nurses (Or Anyone) Can Learn from Pit Crews

by Ted Burnham

Wasn’t there supposed to be a race this weekend?

The Indianapolis 500 has been a highlight of May for over 100 years. But  like so many things right now, the coronavirus had other plans, and the Indy 500 has been delayed until August.

So for those of you who are craving your car-racing fix today, here’s a story from the Avanoo archives about high-performance motorsports – with a lesson for all of us about how to put a little more vroom-VROOM into our teams.

In late 2015, Dr. Rachel Hayward, head of the neonatal ward at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, saw that her well-trained doctors and nurses were wasting too much time during emergencies. In a crisis, losing seconds means losing infant lives. Dr. Hayward was compelled to change that.

Inspired, she called Claire Williams, the deputy team principal for the Williams Formula 1 race car pit crew. F1 race cars are some of the fastest in the world, and during a race where wins can be measured in milliseconds, the pit crew has only a few seconds to lift the car on jacks, remove all four tires, swap in fresh ones, and put the car back on the track – plus any other last-minute maintenance that might be needed.

Dr. Hayward asked Claire to give the doctors and nurses a demonstration of the pit crew’s speed and efficiency. Claire agreed, and soon after, Rachel’s neonatal team spent a day with Claire’s pit crew, watching how fast they worked and getting inspired. Yes, the tools in the neonatal ward were different from those at the racetrack; but the need to set their team up for efficient, coordinated action was the same.

Ready to accelerate your team? The Avanoo StoryApp can help you rev up performance with the power of your own stories. Join us for a virtual town hall or sign up for a 1-on-1 demo to kick the tires!

Back at the hospital, the doctors and nurses went to work streamlining their response to emergencies, starting with the trolley that held the emergency tools. They removed non-vital tools, and put the most important tools easily within reach. Next they formed their own “pit stops” – designated areas around the emergency room that contained everything required for a specific crisis. No more running to get needed materials. And because verbal commands get lost during crises, they practiced hand signals to communicate more effectively.

When they’d finished, they filmed themselves practicing with the new arrangements. Then they reviewed the videos like the pit crew had taught them, looking for even tiny opportunities to save precious seconds.

Six months later, Dr. Hayward saw huge improvements. The team had dramatically cut response times, and saved many infant lives.

Fun fact: When Dr. Hayward and her team visited in 2015, the Williams pit crew was pushing to complete each pit stop in under 3 seconds. By 2017, they’d gone even further – tying a world record by completing a race pit stop in 1.92 seconds.

Just goes to show what you can accomplish when you set your team up for action!


—Ted Burnham, Avanoo Lead Content Marketer

About Ted

Ted Burnham loves the power of words – to tell stories, explain big ideas, and help people connect. He is a writer, editor, multimedia producer, storyteller, and “professional combobulator”. Ted’s work has appeared on NPR, Popular Science, and elsewhere.

About Avanoo

Avanoo brings together the world’s oldest artform – storytelling – and the world’s newest technologies – AI, machine learning – to support teams in experiencing more connection, belonging, and performance. Our app makes it easy for employees to share and listen to each other’s stories wherever they are, and our insights dashboard makes it easy for leaders to understand where and how stories create lasting impact on their teams. Learn more: Avanoo.com
Back to all blog posts

Why Stories Are the Key to Better Performance & Results

Join other HR and organizational leaders to learn how storytelling reinforces the interpersonal skills each of us needs to be a more successful teammate and leader.

Reserve Your Spot
Avanoo uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience. By continuing to use this website, you accept the use of cookies.Learn more
A cookie is a small text file containing information that a website transfers to your computer’s hard disk for record-keeping purposes and allows us to analyse our site traffic patterns. It does not contain chocolate chips, you cannot eat it and there is no special hidden jar.