Sign In
CPSI Share                                                    
3/30/2015 6:00 PM

​​Alberta Health Services (AHS) has obtained 95 per cent compliance in using the Safe Surgery Checklist. The Safe Surgery Checklist has been applied in 59 sites across Alberta; data was compiled using observational audits. The AHS Safe Surgery Checklist is based on the World Health Organization (WHO) approach of a briefing, a time-out and a debriefing.

“The Safe Surgery Checklist is a valuable quality and patient safety vehicle,” says Tracy Wasylak, Senior Program Officer, Strategic Clinical Networks (SCNs), AHS. “As an example, the Calgary zone has seen a decrease in never-events in the last three years and that speaks to the kind of safety we are able to demonstrate by using the Safe Surgery Checklist.”

The SCN also compiles a good catch list through use of the Safety Surgery Checklist, such as documenting when equipment is not in the operating room when needed, or when antibiotics are not administered on time.

“The Safe Surgery Checklist is truly a team effort - both physicians and nursing champions at the local level are making a difference in achieving results," says Dr. Douglas Hedden, Senior Medical Director, Surgery Strategic Clinical Network. “Surgeons and surgical teams across the province have taken this on as an important safety effort and we are proud of the frontline staff who have adopted the Checklist into their everyday practice.”

"Physician leadership has been a critical success factor in achieving compliance of the Safe Surgery Checklist," says Dr. John Kortbeek, Senior Medical Director, Surgery Strategic Clinical Network. “We have recruited physician champions across the five zones in Alberta and that has made a difference in ensuring consistency at a local level."

When the Safe Surgery Checklist was initially implemented, it did not include patient input or involvement at any level. Sandra Zelinsky, a graduate of the Patient and Community Engagement Research (PaCER) program at the Institute for Public Health (IPH) at the University of Calgary was recruited to conduct focus groups to determine the impact of the Safe Surgery Checklist and explore the patient’s experience.

“We found that patients were experiencing anxiety and concern because they did not understand the Safe Surgery Checklist,” says Sandra Zelinsky, Patient Engagement Researcher, AHS Surgery SCN. “Anything that can be done to eliminate that anxiety prior to and during surgery to help patients be better-informed is a step in the right direction.”

A nurse now explains the Safe Surgical Checklist to patients beforehand, on the morning prior to their surgical procedure. Posters were developed and a video was produced as a unique way of talking to patients, families and residents about the Safe Surgery Checklist.  Under the leadership of Dr. Jonathan White, 3M National Teaching Fellow and Senior Director of Undergraduate Surgical Education at the University of Alberta, a new “Muppet Surgery 101” video is available on iTunes and YouTube, and can also be downloaded from:  or

“Including patients in the Safe Surgery Checklist is a way to involve them on the team to address safety, rather than being an innocent bystander,” says Tracy Wasylak. “If for whatever reason anyone on the surgical team chooses not to use the surgical checklist, we expect our patients to ask them about it.”

Click here to download the Canadian Patient Safety Institute’s Safe Surgery Saves Lives Checklist.