Most companies strive to arrange their best practices in the most convenient way. Checklists work well here. Providing essential information for repetitive tasks in the form of a list proves a company’s consistent approach to any level of activity. As an example, introducing specific rules and policies to new team members is quite practical when done through checklists.

Checklist compliance is increasingly monitored in healthcare.5 Often, institutions conduct internal audits of checklist compliance in anticipation of regulatory inspections. Using ‘compliance with checklist’ audits as a measure of safety or quality, however, is problematic, as high checklist compliance is no guarantee that the task is well-executed,18 or that patient safety culture is high.20 In addition, some of the benefits that have been found to be associated with checklist usage, such as enhanced team building and nurses speaking up, are likely to be negated if compliance audits lead to sanctions.
And the tragic thing is it’s often the “stupid” simple stuff that gets people killed or keeps them in the hospital for longer than they needed to be. I have an acquaintance who ended up in the hospital for two weeks because he got the wrong heart medicine. The problem was ultimately one of miscommunication — a basic thing you think would be a given, seeing as how hospitals can transplant human faces and whatnot.
Law school exams. I stumbled upon the power of checklists for managing complex problems while in law school. In a law class, a single three-hour long essay exam determines your final grade. You’re presented with one or two complex hypothetical situations and are required to identify and analyze all the legal issues in them. To excel on law school exams, knowing the law isn’t enough. You have to be adept at applying it to different legal scenarios.
Reinforcement and sanctions surrounding tasks may distract performance from the intent of the checklist. In healthcare, there is often a need to adapt the procedure to the patient or the context. Recent findings show that the WHO checklist, for example, is often implemented differently within single organisations, depending on context. Clinicians may be discouraged from acting in a manner that is best for the patient if they perceive that they may be censured for not following the procedure ‘to the letter’.
This week I made my first checklist for setting up one of my thesis data collections. I listed specific essential tasks and supplemented them with common errors I had either made or had encountered in the past. After making this specific checklist, I decided to see if I could make a general list that could be applied to all studies. Surprisingly, it was easier to do than I thought, although I’m sure it isn’t perfect. I was able to group many of my tasks together under one common point. What is not easy so far is trusting and not deviating from the checklist. It’s been easy to throw the checklist to the side when I get frustrated. In more stressful situations or even when things are running smoothly, I may forget that I’ve come up with a structured way to make sure I’m managing my data collection in the best way possible.

I started to brain storm other areas that checklists could be beneficial. In the construction industry, Gawande explains that checklists are used so that key points are discussed between those in different aspects of the building process. For research, are there things that you always need to talk about with other experimenters or your supervisor when it comes to a study? Maybe a checklist can help there too. Also, when editing manuscripts or proofs, you could have a structured set of points to assess such as, “check to make sure data in tables/figures is correct” or “make sure reference list is up to date”. These all seem so basic, but if taking the time to go over them and know that once you’ve handed in the manuscript that these things have definitely been checked, it could prevent you from having to submit an erratum due to something like an improper figure.


Non-boldface checklists are used to provide decision support when time is not critical. In complicated situations, such as multiple system failures, the checklist appears in the form of a flow chart or decision tree, helping the pilot(s) to navigate the process. In modern aircraft, the checklist is built into the electronic cockpit system, which leads the pilots through the appropriate steps on the screen. The steps are colour-coded for urgency and ranked in priority order. As steps are completed, they disappear from the screen. Checklist items are arranged in a systems operational sequence and are consistent with the patterns of motor and eye movements of the crew.
Law school exams. I stumbled upon the power of checklists for managing complex problems while in law school. In a law class, a single three-hour long essay exam determines your final grade. You’re presented with one or two complex hypothetical situations and are required to identify and analyze all the legal issues in them. To excel on law school exams, knowing the law isn’t enough. You have to be adept at applying it to different legal scenarios.
Travel checklist. I also have a checklist that I use before I leave on an extended trip. It’s kind of a combo of a to-do list and a routine list. It’s stuff I need to get done, but I use the same list every time. And it’s a DO-CONFIRM checklist: I do my prep from memory but then check the list before I leave to verify that I took care of everything essential. These are the things that I’ve had the most trouble remembering in the past, so they’re on my list:
After impressive reductions of catheter-related blood stream infections (CLABSIs) were achieved with the implementation of a checklist bundle, checklists were promoted as evidence medicine should look to this safety solution.19 However, successful reduction of CLABSIs was not due to the checklist alone: multiple interventions addressing ICU safety were implemented at the same time, and it remains unclear what role the checklist specifically played in infection reduction.2 For example, the CLABSI checklist relies on nurse oversight. The changes in nursing behaviour can improve physician performance of line insertion in ways that are unrelated to the checklist: through the ‘Hawthorne’ effect, because the physician knows they are being watched; through empowering nurses and levelling the power gradient between physician and nurse and improving the safety culture; or, through formation of best practice as a habit as physicians insert lines the same way each time.
Checklist makes it easy to get started using checklists, with a built-in repository of checklists submitted by users that you can browse and use. You can find lists for almost anything here, from SEO to property inspections to camping. Add the lists you need to your account, or build your own checklists from scratch, and you can get started organizing your workflows without much hassle.

Pre-flight checklists are a good example. A regular pilot is aware of the importance of checking a list of tasks to prepare an airplane for takeoff. These include checking the operation of the altimeter, fuel gauges, flight controls, magnetos, engine idle, and other system parameters. Besides, preflight checklists are usually segmented in a way that the accomplishment of final items (status of doors/windows, mixture, lights, camera, and action) is completed after the set of initial tasks. The same thing is with the before-landing checklist. According to the FAA's practical test standards, these sets of tasks must be in a written form for pilots’ use.
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