Frequently Asked Questions about Surgical Safety Checklist

What is a Surgical Safety Checklist?

The checklist is a communication tool used by the operating room team (nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists, and others) to discuss information at three important phases during your surgery:

  1. Before you are put to sleep - the Briefing Phase
  2. Just before the first incision - the Time Out Phase
  3. While or just after the surgery is finished - the Debriefing phase.

The checklist is useful because it formally organizes all the previous safety checks performed by the surgical team in those phases. It is shown that better communication between team members lead to safer surgeries and better patient outcomes.

At LHSC, patient safety is a priority and we strongly support the use of surgical safety checklists as a tool to enhance communications and safety in the operating room.

Are surgeries at LHSC safe?

Yes – surgeries at LHSC are very safe. Most parts of the surgical safety checklist were in place before April 1, including:

  • Surgical pause
  • Surgical site markings
  • Using patient identifiers
  • Instrument counts
  • and much more

LHSC is using the checklist to make surgeries even safer. The purpose of the checklist is to improve communication and teamwork in the operating room, which is shown to improve patient safety.  

Could a patient get a team that will not use the surgical safety checklist?

No. Checklists are used in every surgery.

You are encouraged to speak to a member of your care team about the Surgical Safety Checklist.

Can I find the compliance rate for my surgeon?

No. This is a communication tool that requires input from different members of the operating room team including nurses, anaesthetists and others, not just the surgeon.

Why is LHSC’s compliance not at 100%?

At LHSC, safety checks are used in every surgery. Most of the safety checks found in the checklist have been in place for years.

In some cases, the newer elements of the checklists may not have been completed or communicated, such as the verbal debrief at the end of the surgery. If one element is not complete or communicated properly, then the checklist is not counted as being compliant.

When will the next surgical safety checklist compliance rate being publicly reported?

The Surgical Safety Checklist compliance rate is published twice a year, covering the periods of January 1 - June 30, and July 1 - December 31.