I have often said that unlearning can be a matter of life or death (here, here and here) and I mean it. To add to my growing body of evidence, I submit this article from the Wall Street Journal. The article reports that hospitals can dramatically lower the number of infections which strike patients by following a simple five-step checklist.
The matter is not inconsequential because unnecessary infections kill an estimated 80,000 patients every year! Given this astounding number, a person might rightfully think that doctors and nurses would be doing everything in their power to follow the simple checklist.
Well, you would be wrong. Again, according to the article, three years after the publication of the checklist its use remains limited. All the while thousands of patients are unnecessarily dying!
Why? One answer is because nurses don't believe it is "their job" to "police" doctors who are not following the checklist. The other problem is that doctors don't like being "second-guessed" by nurses because "it will make [them] look like [they] don't know something."
The nurses who don't believe it is their "job" need to unlearn their job description and redefine it so that the patients well-being (and not their own well-being) becomes the centerpiece of their job definition. And the doctors who don't like being second-guessed need to understand two things: First, it is OK to admit that you don't know everything (in fact this is the first step down the path of unlearning); and, second, they need to realize that unlearning requires them to check their ego.