EMS Tips

Remain Calm, We Have a Checklist: Part 2

A patient care protocol is a kind of checklist. A protocol includes a lot of instructions on how to assess and treat a patient. Within a protocol you might also have several checklists to complete to successfully implement the protocol.

For example, you likely have a protocol for a patient with chest pain. The protocol directs assessment of the patient’s pain and measurement of vital signs. It may also direct initial patient treatments. The protocol may also include a checklist of specific actions:

  1. Administer medications
  2. Acquire, read, and transmit 12-lead

A chest pain protocol may also include a checklist for preparing the patient for the cath lab:

  1. Remove patient’s clothing
  2. Start at least one IV
  3. Shave the patient’s groin
  4. Document specific patient history findings

Checklists can also be useful for situations where additional care providers will arrive on-scene to verify that actions have been taken. For example, a cardiac arrest checklist for the second arriving unit might be focused on first assuring minimal interruptions to chest compressions, before other interventions. A later arriving responder, not in the thick of the action, might be best suited to step back and verify completion of assessment and treatment actions with a checklist.

Some specific situations well suited for a checklist:

  1. Cardiac arrest
  2. Stroke
  3. Sepsis
  4. Respiratory failure

Do you use checklists? Do you think a checklist is different from a protocol? How can checklists improve patient care and EMS professional safety?

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By Greg Friese

Greg Friese, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, is an author, educator, paramedic, and marathon runner.

Greg was the co-host of the award winning EMSEduCast podcast, the only podcast by and for EMS educators. Greg has written for,, Wilderness Medical Associates, JEMS Magazine, and EMS World Magazine, and the NAEMSE Educator Newsletter.