Checklists in the operating room: Help or hurdle? A qualitative study on health workers' experiences

BMC Health Serv Res. 2010 Dec 20:10:342. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-10-342.


Background: Checklists have been used extensively as a cognitive aid in aviation; now, they are being introduced in many areas of medicine. Although few would dispute the positive effects of checklists, little is known about the process of introducing this tool into the health care environment. In 2008, a pre-induction checklist was implemented in our anaesthetic department; in this study, we explored the nurses' and physicians' acceptance and experiences with this checklist.

Method: Focus group interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of checklist users (nurses and physicians) from the Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care in a tertiary teaching hospital. The interviews were analysed qualitatively using systematic text condensation.

Results: Users reported that checklist use could divert attention away from the patient and that it influenced workflow and doctor-nurse cooperation. They described senior consultants as both sceptical and supportive; a head physician with a positive attitude was considered crucial for successful implementation. The checklist improved confidence in unfamiliar contexts and was used in some situations for which it was not intended. It also revealed insufficient equipment standardisation.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest several issues and actions that may be important to consider during checklist use and implementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / standards
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Checklist*
  • Focus Groups
  • Hospitals, Teaching / standards
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Norway
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital
  • Operating Rooms*
  • Physicians
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surgery Department, Hospital / standards
  • Workforce