Distractions And Multitasking Lead To Medical Errors

Did you know that medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S.? Shocking, right? Even more surprising, a study recently published in the Journal of Infusion Nursing indicates that nurse distractions play a primary role in fatal medical errors, particularly those caused by errors in medication administration. Yoder et al., the authors of the article, found that nurses experience nearly seven distractions per hour, many of which occur during medication-related tasks such as infusion administration. Furthermore, nurse distractions and interruptions have been shown to be contributing factors in up to half of all medication errors.

The study suggests that by minimizing distractions and interruptions, medical errors can also be reduced, and nurse and patient wellbeing can be increased. The study explored the use of a protocol, called “Safe Zone,” as a method for reducing medication administration errors. This comprehensive protocol calls for clearly marked quiet areas to be used specifically for medication preparation and administration, adherence to a checklist for all medication prep and administration procedures, education of hospital staff regarding the importance of concentration during medication-related tasks, and even special vests to be worn by nurses performing such tasks to indicate they not be disturbed.

Professional and student nurses participated in the three-month long study which involved implementation of the “Safe Zone” protocol. Over the course of the study, patient perceptions regarding safety and quality of care increased by about 40%, and feedback from nurse participants highlighted a positive impact on feelings of wellbeing. However, while nurses stated they felt more efficient overall as a result of using the protocol, they also reported an increase in distractions over the course of the study. This finding suggests that nurses were more aware of the distractions they face on the job and how these distractions affect their quality of work.

The authors of the study explain that interventions, such as the “Safe Zone” protocol, play an important role in reducing medical errors. In fact, such interventions have the potential to reduce over half of all medication administration errors. However, changing the paradigm will be difficult. “Nursing has traditionally been all about multitasking 100% of the time,” explained the authors. “Practicing the discipline of focusing on one critical task (eg, passing medication) will take time to develop, as will changing overall thinking.”

DripAssistTM was created with that very thought in mind. Although multitasking leads to errors, it’s also deeply ingrained in nursing culture and inevitable in fast-paced hospital environments. By accurately monitoring and displaying infusion rates, DripAssist allows nurses to multitask while administering medication without detriment to patient safety.