Background: Many health organizations sponsor overseas surgical outreach initiatives, yet none has published a standardized protocol to prevent and manage unforeseen emergencies. Surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and administrators—working together on a brief overseas humanitarian initiative—benefit from education and training to maximize their collective emergency responsiveness. This article outlines the emergency response protocol instituted by the Global Smile Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit global outreach organization providing comprehensive cleft care for the past 25 years.
Methods: The Global Smile Foundation emergency response protocol was constructed to provide all team members resources and training needed to emulate the high emergency response standards of developed nations. In this article, the authors share their education/training strategy, emergency “crash” cart inventory, site-specific safety checklist, and team member roles and responsibilities during various emergencies.
Results: The authors' protocol emphasizes equipment portability, location-specific adaptability, clear workflow/communication, and standardized team roles. On-site training is likewise portable, standardized, reproducible, efficient, and adaptive to each setting. These characteristics make the authors' protocol widely adoptable.
Conclusions: Most morbidity and mortality during overseas surgical outreach initiatives result from unfamiliarity with the host hospital and other team members during operative (e.g., airway, bleeding, circulatory, anesthetic) or location-based (e.g., power outage, fire, oxygen shortage) emergencies. These complications are prevented and managed with aggressive team education and training. The Global Smile Foundation protocol adapts to the uncertainties of providing medical care in underresourced settings and reflects experience accumulated over the past quarter century. It is the authors' hope that other humanitarian outreach groups will adopt, customize, and build on these basic tenets.