Checklists

This week I decided to add my new online journals to my link resolver, and was surprised to see I’d already added them. They aren’t all working, though, so I must have missed a step in getting them registered.  And I don’t know whether I’ve added them to  PubMed Linkout. Too many steps, too many interruptions, too much multitasking, and my workflow as solo librarian at three locations is much too fragmented.

Which brings me to my point.  Recently, I listened to NPR’s interview with Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon who is advocating the use of checklists to improve quality and assure patient safety in surgery.   A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population, a study published in NEJM, reports that mortality and complications were both reduced in 8 hospitals worldwide when use of the checklist was implemented.

In the interview, Dr. Gawande discussed some reasons for resistance to using checklists; for example, highly educated professionals may feel that their years of study and experience means that they know enough not to need a reminder list.  However, simple steps such as having everyone in the operating room introduce themselves was found to improve results, and the checklist assured that these simple steps were followed each time.

My job isn’t as complex as surgery – but I’m thinking some checklists sound like a great idea.

Cochrane search tips

I’ve been training librarians to use the various databases in the Michigan eLibrary for a number of years.  Of course, every time I think I’ve got the “advanced” techniques down cold, the publishers come along and tweak the programming behind the scenes to make it easier for those using basic search techniques to get a better result. In the process, my “expert” knowledge gets tossed out the window without my being any the wiser.

A recent post in Laika’s MedLibLog demonstrates this principle with the Cochrane Library. When more is less: Truncation, Stemming and Pluralization in the Cochrane Library points out that Cochrane’s search feature automatically uses stemming, pluralization, and singularization, so searching tumor finds tumor, tumors, tumour, and tumours. The feature only works when searching without truncation, though, so using tumor* will find tumorectomy, etc.,  but not tumour and its variations.

The lesson for us expert searchers is, from time to time, to check the “help” documents to see if our techniques are still valid — particularly if we start getting odd results.

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