We explore how engagement with checklists and adoption of a strict 'checking' discipline help avoid unintentional individual, team and systemic errors. Paradoxically, this is equally important when performing repetitive mundane tasks as well as during times of high-stress workload. In this article, we aim to discuss the different types of checklists and explain how deviations from a 'checking' discipline can lead to never events such as wrong side or site surgery. Well-designed checklists function as mental notes and prompts in clinical situations where the combination of fatigue and stress can contribute to a decline in cognitive performance. Furthermore, the need for proactive discussion by all members of the team during the implementation of the surgical checklist also reinforces the concept of teamwork and contributes towards effective communication. Patient safety is often a product of good communication, teamwork and anticipation: a 'checking' mentality remains the lynchpin which links these factors.
Keywords: education & training (see medical education & training); health & safety; protocols & guidelines.
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