Patients and Protocols

Protocols and checklists are routinely used in healthcare to avoid oversights and preventable mistakes. In the perioperative setting, there are multiple hard stops to prevent dangerous mistakes (ie, doing the wrong operation on the wrong patient).

The more I grow as a resident physician anesthesiologist, the more I appreciate the importance of protocols like the surgical timeout. However, a strict adherence to protocols sometimes misses the most important thing – providing safe care for our patients.

Supervisors need to stop reading flowsheets and diagrams to actually SEE what’s happening with a patient and the circumstances around which clinical decisions are made. Medicine is an imperfect science in constant flux which needs to be tailored for every patient. A “one size fits all” protocol is often not feasible.

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