National Time Out Day: Eliminating Preventable Surgical Errors

Each year, more than 150,000 people lose their lives following surgery, even more than the number who die in motor vehicle accidents, according to The Checklist Manifesto by Dr. Atul Gawande. It is a hard number because the majority of surgical errors are preventable.

Gawande, a physician at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to study use of safety checklists at a number of hospitals around the world. Within months, hospitals using the checklists saw major complications and injuries drop by 35 percent and deaths drop by 47 percent, Gawande reported in his 2010 book.

Many hospitals have since implemented use of the WHO surgical checklist or another protocol. On Wednesday, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) will bring the issue back into focus with “National Time Out Day.”

During the Time Out process, the operating team stops before surgery, runs down the surgical safety checklist and confirms the identity of the patient, the procedure and site of the operation, along with other key information.

More than 300 professional organizations have endorsed the use of a Time Out protocol, but AORN is urging more hospitals to adopt the practice and for those who do to encourage greater participation among all members of the staff.

We encourage all hospitals, surgical teams and patients to pay attention to the safety checklist and Time Out process. If you’re a patient, ask if your hospital uses a checklist. If your hospital doesn’t, find another one. The checklist is critical to saving lives.

Learn About Surgical Safety Checklists
The best way to understand the Time Out process is to see it in action. Click to watch the following video.

Click here to look at the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist.

Click here to look at the AORN Comprehensive Surgical Checklist. This checklist is slightly longer because it brings the WHO checklist together with standards called for by the Joint Commission’s Universal Protocol.

The Boston and Cambridge medical malpractice lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 80 years combined experience handling cases involving surgical mistakes and hospital negligence. If you or a loved one has been injured, contact us today for a free consultation at 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.