The Checklist Manifesto: A Book Review


Onovu Otitigbe-Dangerfield, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Atul Gawande, a world renowned surgeon and author wrote a bestselling novel about checklists. Yes, checklists. A compilation of items on a sheet of paper that you check off as each of the tasks are accomplished. How could someone possible write a 193 page novel about that? I wondered the same, which is what enticed me to read the book. 

The Checklist Manifesto is a book that addresses the drastic change incorporating checklists into the operating room created, after the World Health Organization brought attention to the increasing rate of surgical errors. The book talked about the dilemma most surgeons were facing as fatal, yet preventable issues were taking place. This included the common place deaths of central line infections and anesthesia errors. There were even occurrences when the wrong patient was operated on, and fatal mistakes were made due to lack of communication between the doctor and the patient. 

In the midst of these errors, Atul Gawande worked to gradually introduce checklist into the workplace by first identifying whether or not they are only suitable for airplanes and restaurants. He did so by choosing eight hospitals worldwide with a variety of economic conditions and testing them there. Mortality by surgical error decreased in drastic numbers and Gawande then realized the importance of incorporating them into everyday life. Although this was the case there was a process of refining to make the lists more efficient and clear to the staff. This journey resulted in a surgical revolution that provided the opportunity for millions of lives to be saved. 

Gawande’s  insight into society’s ways of handling problems and his classification of complex and complicated issues was a viewpoint most often overlooked by society. He also spoke to the idealized notion of what heroism is and how that affected the surgical communities willingness to utilize what was an obvious and validated solution because of its sheer simplicity.

The book was truly eye opening and I would recommend itto anyone looking for a good read!