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Surgery Checklists

It’s often the little things that get overlooked. These seemingly minor missed steps can have serious consequences for our patients. The checklist is a tool to help prevent that.

-Dr. Peter Barrett, Urologist,
Saskatoon Health Region

The Surgical Safety Checklist is an internationally recognized tool to promote patient safety and identify opportunities to make surgery safer in your operating room. A set of standardized questions cover the important tasks of performing surgery, such as confirming patient name, surgical procedure and site, and status of surgical equipment and supplies.

There are three phases: a briefing before the patient receives anesthesia, a time-out before beginning the procedure, and a debrief before the patient leaves the operating room. Each member of the surgical team is expected to participate in all three phases of the checklist each time a surgery is performed. The patient participates in the briefing phase by answering questions from the surgical team confirming identity, allergies to medications, and personal information that is important for the surgical team to know before starting the surgery.

Surgical ChecklistA checklist is primarily a communication tool to build safety checks into the surgical process. It can strengthen communication with the patient about his or her surgery and among members of the surgical team so that they can provide the best quality, safest surgical care possible.  A checklist delivers consistency for those times when memory lapses or unanticipated complications occur.     

The World Health Organization (WHO) champions use of the surgical checklist through its Safe Surgery Saves Lives program. Health care sites around the world have successfully demonstrated that use of the surgical checklist can significantly improve patient safety. The World Health Organization encourages modification and adaption of the surgical safety checklist to fit with local practice.

Health regions are working toward universal implementation of surgical safety checklists in all hospital operating rooms.

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