The Checklist Manifesto Book Summary, by Atul Gawande

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1-Page Summary of The Checklist Manifesto


The Checklist Manifesto is a non-fiction book about how checklists can help save lives. The author, Gawande, shows how checklists increase efficiency and teamwork.

The first instance of a checklist was in 1935, when a Boeing Model 299 exploded during takeoff. The pilot forgot to unlock the elevator and rudder controls before takeoff. This is something that any pilot would do, but this time he simply forgot. In response, the US Army pilots who had purchased several Model 299s decided to create checklists for each flight. Construction builders also use checklists because they have many steps and workers from 16 different trades are involved in construction projects.

In 2007, Gawande was asked by the World Health Organization to develop a worldwide program to reduce incidences of death and injury during surgery. In concert with other physicians and public health officials, he tested a 19-step checklist for surgical care in eight hospitals around the globe. He also studied checklists used in aviation, construction, and business to better understand how they could improve performance in surgery.

Gawande’s book was published in 2011.

Key Takeaways

Philosophers Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre believe that there are two reasons why doctors fail in their profession. The first is ignorance, which comes from the vast amount of knowledge available today. Doctors have to know how to use cutting-edge technology and information to help people and save lives.

In emergency situations, even the best doctors and nurses can make mistakes and cause harm to patients. To reduce that risk, studies have explored using checklists in hospitals. Some people resist this idea because they see it as an attack on their experience or authority. Checklists also shift power from physicians to nurses by giving them a chance to question the doctor’s decisions.

Not all checklists are created equally. The best ones can be completed quickly, but they also need to cover most of the variables that may arise in a situation.

When communication is a part of the checklist, it creates a sense of investment in and participation with the team. This boosts performance.

Despite the proven effectiveness of checklists, many in the medical field are still resistant to their use.

Key Takeaway 1: Philosophers Samuel Gorovitz and Alasdair MacIntyre believe that there might be two reasons for why doctors fail in medicine: ignorance and ineptitude.

In the 1970s, two researchers identified two types of medical errors: ignorance and ineptitude. Ignorance is a failure to understand or comprehend something properly, while ineptitude is a failure to apply knowledge correctly. Scientific research has improved doctors’ understanding of heart disease and helped them spread awareness about its prevention. Likewise, there’s an abundance of scientifically based information available on other topics like skyscraper construction and weather prediction. However, that doesn’t mean people have stopped making mistakes due to ignorance or incorrect application of important information.

It might be unsettling to think that even professionals can make mistakes, but the reality is that they do. One example of this is in the operating room or on a flight deck. Even with experience and skill, there’s always a chance for failure.

Key Takeaway 2: Advances in all industries, especially medicine, have resulted in a vast body of knowledge that can be overwhelming. This poses the problem of how to effectively use cutting-edge information to benefit the greater good and save lives.

The Checklist Manifesto Book Summary, by Atul Gawande

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