Ever heard of a band called Van Halen? These guys were a group of talented rockers who made it big in the early 80s, with radio staple hits such as Jump and Panama making them one of the best selling bands of all time.
They were also a little bit weird.
As part of their contract rider, a list of demands they made to venues they played at, they would ask for a bowl of M&Ms to be placed in their dressing room with (and this is the strange bit) all of the brown ones removed. Now why would they do this? Were they worried about e-numbers ruining their show? Did they have a general aversion to brown coloured sweets? Or was it just another capricious demand of a group of power-crazed rock stars, determined to flex some muscle?
In actual fact, this request had some pretty sound logic behind it. As a mega rock band, they had a huge amount of equipment in tow, which required a ridiculously complicated set up to be done in just the right way to ensure the safety of the crowd and the band. To achieve this they would give each venue a check-list of over 100 items which had to be followed precisely, on pain of a disastrous potential accident- And in amongst details of amplifier weights and prop stability specifics they’d insert their chocolatey M&M demand.
See where they’re going with this? If Van Halen then entered the dressing room and there were no M&Ms, or even M&Ms with brown included, they could be reasonably sure the check-list hadn’t been followed properly, and that there were probably safety issues which had to be addressed due to inappropriate set-up. Clever, right?
But Matt, I hear you cry, what does this have to do with Medicine?! And why are you suddenly talking about boring as check-lists? Well dear readers, it just so happens I recently finished reading a brilliant book by an American surgeon called Atul Gawande called “The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right”, in he espouses the virtues of using check-lists in medical practice to reduce unnecessary patients deaths and complications.
Gawande was part of the team behind the World Health Organisation pre-surgical checklist, and the book talks about the incredibly positive effect checklists had on reducing surgical complications – Who knew that ticking boxes could be life saving?
Honestly, the author deserves a huge amount of credit for making what sounds like an incredibly dull topic fascinating to read about. We have a module at Leicester which you study in your second year called Health and Disease in Society, which teaches you about the importance of using systems in healthcare – It’s also one of those modules I didn’t realise the significance of until I read this book.
So, if you’re a fan of lists, or have a little spare time to learn a good deal about the future of medical practice, I would definitely check this book out – Just make sure you have some M&Ms to hand while you’re reading!