Yesterday, Patricia Iyer, MSN, RN, LNCC, the president of Med League, wrote a post on the Medical-Legal Topics blog in which she states that "the patient safety movement is now taking lessons from the airline industry." In her piece, Reducing Distractions is Reducing Medication Errors, she explains the impact that interruptions have on nurses as they prepare medications in busy hospital hallways and contrasts this type of setting with the sterility of a cockpit - designed to prevent interruptions.
In her INQRI study, "Examining the Impact of Nursing Structures and Processes on Medication Errors," Linda Flynn has also noted the incredible affect that interruptions can have on nurses and on the patients in their care. She has witnessed firsthand nurses having to answer phone calls from the lab for a non-emergency when they are in the middle of counting pills, or having to stop what they are doing to reconcile medications to respond to a patient's family member seeking a drink of juice for their loved one. Flynn recounts how one nurse, unable to find a quiet place to focus on her task, simply sat in the middle of a chaotic medical unit hallway to reconcile medications for her patient panel. Flynn observed that the nurse was interrupted every 45 seconds for tasks that could have easily been done by others on staff or could have waited until she finished. These are the kinds of interruptions that can lead to medication errors, she warns.
Flynn says hospitals need to foster work environments that let nurses focus on safety efforts without the fear of being needlessly interrupted. "Hospital systems are not designed in a way to keep patients safe. Nurses are just out in the open and subject to constant stimuli."
The good news, says Flynn, is the INQRI research is showing that "all of these things we are looking at are modifiable. If nurse staffing is a predictor of medication errors, we can do something about that. Hospitals can staff better or they can look at what nurses are being asked to do and take extraneous activities away and assign them to others."
Click here to read Pat Iyer's piece.
Click here to read more about Linda Flynn's work.