Book Review: “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande

I’m quite fond of checklists myself. I use them for practically everything. They save me time, money, and energy–but did you know that checklists can save LIVES too?

And I’m not being facetious.

Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto tells the story of how simple checklists save lives–in the building of skyscrapers, the flying of planes, and in the running of operation rooms.

Gawande is a surgeon, and the bulk of the book concerns how he and a number of colleagues in the WHO developed and implemented a checklist to reduce surgical complications–with stunningly positive results.

As a dietitian (and sister and roommate of a physician assistant), I was fascinated by Gawande’s stories of operating rooms, emergency rooms, and public health campaigns. But this book isn’t just for people who like medicine. Gawande stretches outside the constraints of medicine to discuss how checklists are used in architecture and aeronautics, in disaster relief (well, by Walmart during Katrina, at least) and in investment.

Gawande makes a compelling case for the necessity of checklists, even among highly trained professionals, to deal with the problem of extreme complexity. He argues that in the world in which we live, there are hundreds (even thousands) of opportunities for something to go wrong. Even the most advanced practitioners need only forget one thing for a fatal error to occur. Checklists can be used to reduce these errors by ensuring that all of the most important considerations are made.

As I read, I found myself thinking of ways I could use checklists in my own work. Maybe checklists for weight loss interventions (I find myself typing the charting shorthand “wt” instead–I think I may be spending too much time charting at work) or for tube feeding initiation. I toss around a half dozen ideas, start compiling mental checklists. Yes, I’m going to be implementing checklists soon.

The Checklist Manifesto isn’t a self-help book or a “how to” manual–but I can almost guarantee it’ll get you thinking about how you can use checklists to make your life and your work better, faster, and more efficient.

I read this book on recommendation from Lisa Notes. Check out her review.

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Medical(?)
Synopsis:A history and defense of the checklist as a life-saving tool for modern days.
Recommendation: Definitely of interest to medical types, probably of interest to quite a few more. A fascinating story told well.

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