I watch a lot of astronaut movies... Mostly Star Wars. And even Han and Chewie use a checklist. —Jon Stewart
October 30 is National Checklist Day
My interest in checklists started about ten years ago when I read an article by Atul Gawade in the New Yorker. In it, he tells how Dr. Peter Pronovost decided to make a checklist to tackle a single problem—the problem of line infections. That’s an infection that gets into an intravenous tube and is delivered into the bloodstream. This kills people. Dr. Provonost thought a checklist might help.
The steps were simple: 1. The doctor should wash hands with soap 2. Clean the patient’s skin with antiseptic 3. Put sterile drapes over the entire patient 4. Wear a sterile mask, hat, gown, and gloves and 5. Put a sterile dressing over the catheter site once the line is in. Five steps; that’s it. Provonost asked the nurses in the I.C.U. to spend a month observing the doctors as they put in lines. And what did they find? The doctors skipped at least one step in over one-third of patients.
The Checklist In Action
So they instituted the checklist system and asked nurses to stop doctors if they saw them skipping a step. After a year, the ten-day line-infection rate went from eleven percent to zero. After another fifteen months, there were only two line infections the entire time. Statistically, the checklist had prevented forty-three infections and eight deaths.
Every piece of writing we produce is a complex organism, which is why Bookflow has checklists for scenes and characters.
When we’re trying to balance language, syntax, motivation, plot, reaction, etc, it can be very helpful to take a step back and make sure that each essential element has been addressed. I find the checklists are extremely helpful both before I start drafting and after I’ve finished a draft. I hope they help you, too. So you might want to consider checking them out. (I couldn’t stop myself.)
Have a Happy National Checklist Day!