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Archive June 2016 XVII, No. 6

Safety: Get the Most Out of Your Safety Checklist

Frontline feedback and active participation help check all the boxes.

Jessica Geddings, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CSPDT


checklists TRUE TO FORM Checklists ensure surgical teams follow standardized pre-op protocols.

It's one thing to have a surgery safety checklist. It's quite another to use it consistently and properly before each and every case. The South Carolina Hospital Association awarded our hospital with a Safe Surgery Designation because of the ways we use our checklists. Here are the steps we took to be recognized as a local leader in protecting patients.

Survey the staff on checklist usage
Does your surgical team complete every section of the safety checklist before every case? We thought our team did, until it came time to apply for the Safe Surgery Designation. The form asked if each element on our safety checklist is completed for every patient, every time. I couldn't in good conscience answer the question, because I'm not in the room when the OR team conducts pre-op time outs and runs through the checklist.

That's when we polled our staff to find out. You should do the same. Create a survey based on the elements listed on your checklist that asks staff to check "yes" or "no" next to each element to indicate if they perform the task for every patient. Keep the survey anonymous to ensure you get honest feedback. You might be surprised to find, like we did, that the compliance rate isn't as high as you'd like it to be.

Partner with physicians
If you're not at 100% compliance, you need to find out why. Present the data to your physicians and start the conversation based on the results of the survey tool. To make real change happen, your docs must be on board with your efforts to improve checklist usage. A general surgeon and anesthesiologist championed our cause, and their efforts were instrumental in getting the surgical team to buy into the importance of completing the checklist for every patient.

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