What doctors can learn from pilots

It’s always a pleasure to find writing that you love.

For me, a medical professional writes with skill and beauty is a treat. Abraham Vergese, Jerome Groupman, Theresa Brown, and Atul Gawande are three writer/physicians whose work I follow – they are messengers from the medical world, skillfully bringing their ideas and experiences to the rest of us.

The patient stories from these gifted individuals are compelling; the insights they share on our system of medicine should not be ignored.

The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande’s latest work, explores the importance of paying attention to the details. As the work of surgeons becomes technically more complex, the likelihood that surgical teams will make simple errors increases.

These are not errors due to ignorance, or lack of skill. Instead, these are errors made because a simple detail is overlooked or false assumptions are made.

Gawande, a surgeon himself with an interest in the problem, talked to experts in other professionals, such as pilots and builders of skyscrapers. He found that they manage details with a simple tool that medical teams might use, too: the checklist.

Gawande takes this idea to his research team and develops a safe surgery checklist, puts it into use and writes about the results, which sound impressive.

Simply running down the list before a surgery enables members of a team to share information that may have been overlooked otherwise. Sometimes, this information saves lives.

Gawande, and these other writer/medical providers messengers allow the rest of us to sharpen our knowledge of how things work in the healthcare system. It’s beautiful prose, too.

You can also hear Gawande talk about what he found from his research in an interview with WAMU’s Diane Rehm, one of the first stops on his book tour.

– Vicki Balint


One response to “What doctors can learn from pilots

  1. Another good book and an author who is from Arizona: THE SCALPEL AND THE SOUL by Dr. Allen Hamilton, M.D. (a brain surgeon and professor with U. of A.’s medical school).

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