Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

My parents recently loaned me The Checklist Manifesto. I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more of his books. While I didn't get any big epiphanies about education while reading this, a bit about their pilot struck me. Gawande worked with a WHO team to create a checklist for surgeries around the world. They tested the checklist at hospitals in wealthy and third-world situations. He describes a couple of sites:

"My team and I hit the road, fanning out to visit the pilot sites as the checklist got under way. I had never seen surgery performed in so many different kinds of settings. The contrasts were even starker than I had anticipated and the range of problems was infinitely wider.
In Tanzania, the hospital was two hundred miles of sometimes one-lane dirt roads from Dar es Salaam, and flooding during the rainy season cut off supplies - such as medications and anesthetic gases - often for weeks at a time. There were thousands of surgery patients, but just five surgeons and four anesthesia staff. None of the anesthetists had a medical degree. The patients' families supplied most of the blood for the blood bank, and when that wasn't enough, staff members rolled up their sleeves. They conserved anesthetic supplies by administering mainly spinal anesthesia - injections of numbing medication directly into the spinal canal. They could do operations under spinal that I never conceived of. They saved and resterilized their surgical gloves, using them over and over until holes appeared. They even made their own surgical gauze, the nurses and anesthesia staff sitting around an old wood table at teatime each afternoon cutting bolts of white cotton cloth to size for the next day's cases.
In Delhi, the charity hospital was not as badly off as the Tanzanian site or hospitals I'd been to in rural India. There were more supplies. The staff members were better trained. But the volume of patients they were asked to care for in this city of thirteen million was beyond comprehension. The hospital had seven fully trained anesthetists, for instance, but they had to perform twenty thousand operations a year. To provide a sense of how ludicrous this is, our New Zealand pilot hospital employed ninety-two anesthetists to manage a similar magnitude of surgery. Yet, for all the equipment shortages, power outages, waiting lists, fourteen-hour days, I heard less unhappiness and complaining from the surgical staff in Delhi than in many American hospitals I've been to."

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande p. 146-147

Reading this I was reminded of the differences in schools around our country (not even to begin to think of schools around the world). If you could choose a place for surgery, you wouldn't choose the ones in Delhi or Tanzania. Just as if you could choose any school for your child, you wouldn't choose ones in our urban cities. The difference is, we can control this. So far, we just don't.

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