Check a box. save a life: How student leadership is shaking up health care and driving a revolution in patient safety

Daniel Henderson*, Andrew Carson-Stevens, Jordan Bohnen, Lily Gutnik, Shabnam Hafiz, Shannon Mills

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: The objective was to engage health professions students as leaders in spreading the World Health Organization Surgical Checklist. The published impact of the checklist in reducing surgical complications and deaths, combined with its ease of use, offers an ideal target for students to save lives and prevent suffering. As members of the "Check a Box. Save a Life." campaign, students can speed the pace of patient safety improvement. Methods: The campaign was developed around an online Webcast event, designated its launch. Outreach was conducted mainly through social media, especially the popular networking Web site, Facebook. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Open School for Health Professions and the American Medical Student Association provided a source of potential campaign members. Results: One hundred eighty-two registrants, representing 122 distinct hosting institutions, signed up for the launch event. Based on hosts' projected event sizes, assessed in a registration questionnaire, approximately 1400 students are believed to have participated in the event. After the launch, these students joined the campaign and were invited to carry out projects in their home institutions. Six weeks after the launch, the campaign reconvened at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 21st Annual National Forum, and attendees presented case reports of 15 projects they had undertaken since the launch. Conclusions: As an independent, self-organized, decentralized effort and an application of student social organizing to the cause of patient safety, "Check a Box." is a landmark achievement. Leveraging social media and disrupting the traditional model of safety leadership, the campaign offers hope for the future of patient safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-47
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Patient Safety
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Health profession education
  • Medical student education
  • Patient safety
  • Social media
  • Student organizing
  • Surgical safety
  • WHO surgical safety checklist


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