The Development and Implementation of Cognitive Aids for Critical Events in Pediatric Anesthesia: The Society for Pediatric Anesthesia Critical Events Checklists

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Abstract

Cognitive aids such as checklists are commonly used in modern operating rooms for routine processes, and the use of such aids may be even more important during critical events. The Quality and Safety Committee of the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia (SPA) has developed a set of critical-event checklists and cognitive aids designed for 3 purposes: (1) as a repository of the latest evidence-based and expert opinion-based information to guide response and management of critical events, (2) as a source of just-in-time information during critical events, and (3) as a method to facilitate a shared understanding of required actions among team members during a critical event. Committee members, who represented children’s hospitals from across the nation, used the recent literature and established guidelines (where available) and incorporated the expertise of colleagues at their institutions to develop these checklists, which included relevant factors to consider and steps to take in response to critical events. Human factors principles were incorporated to enhance checklist usability, facilitate error-free accomplishment, and ensure a common approach to checklist layout, formatting, structure, and design.

The checklists were made available in multiple formats: a PDF version for easy printing, a mobile application, and at some institutions, a Web-based application using the anesthesia information management system. After the checklists were created, training commenced, and plans for validation were begun. User training is essential for successful implementation and should ideally include explanation of the organization of the checklists; familiarization of users with the layout, structure, and formatting of the checklists; coaching in how to use the checklists in a team environment; reviewing of the items; and simulation of checklist use. Because of the rare and unpredictable nature of critical events, clinical trials that use crisis checklists are difficult to conduct; however, recent and future simulation studies with adult checklists provide a promising avenue for future validation of the SPA checklists. This article will review the developmental steps in producing the SPA crisis checklists, including creation of content, incorporation of human factors elements, and validation in simulation. Critical-events checklists have the potential to improve patient care during emergency events, and it is hoped that incorporating the elements presented in this article will aid in successful implementation of these essential cognitive aids.

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