Interruptions and multitasking can increase medical error rates
Healthcare professionals everywhere are stretched particularly thin these days. The last two years have placed unprecedented demands on physicians, nurses, and truly all healthcare workers. Extreme daily workloads and the unique circumstances of the pandemic have far surpassed the requirements of an already demanding role.
It may seem somewhat impossible to focus on time management when patients on a busy hospital floor frequently have urgent and unpredictable needs. Yet, there are time management tools and approaches that may help introduce a sense of order within the chaos in a 12-hour nursing shift. And most importantly, safety measures guarding against distractions are especially critical. Visual timers can help play role in time management in these high-stress scenarios.
The nature of this statement may seem utterly ridiculous to many healthcare professionals – especially nurses. Afterall, the patient load for most hospital workers is well beyond any previous record. Many people, healthcare worker or not, believe that taking on a multitasking approach to their job is most efficient. In reality, research shows that’s far from the truth.
A May 2010 article in Harvard Business Review, “How and why to stop multitasking”, the practice of multitasking accounts for a productivity decrease of up to 40 percent. Perhaps even more critical is the markedly increased potential for mistakes. According to John Medina in his book, Brain Rules, individuals who multitask are 50 percent more likely to make mistakes. Clearly, this can lead to dangerous consequences in a healthcare setting.
This also likely seems like an improbable task in a healthcare setting, and in many cases it essentially impossible. Yet, many patient safety advocacy groups have called for more measures and tools for assisting healthcare workers in minimizing interruptions, particularly in a hospital setting.
Eliminating or drastically reducing interruptions while a nurse administers a manual IV push or infusion pump is vitally important. Improper timing can lead to catastrophic medical consequences. In 2014, a team of healthcare professionals authored and presented a study funded by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI). Their research results are presented in an article, “The Use of Multiple Methods to Explore the Impact of Interruptions on Intravenous (IV) Push Delivery”. According to reports included in the study, “The research study included an analysis of focus group discussions and subsequent collaboration with other stakeholders revealed that interruptions are unavoidable and often necessary during IV pushes. The nurses indicated preference for strategies that would instead allow them to safely multitask without losing track of time. One such strategy involves the use of a visual timer to mitigate the potential for error.”
Time Timer visual timers are frequently used in the healthcare environment for a number of time management strategies. And as this research study reflects, visual timers can become a key part of patient safety protocols in the workplace. As reported in the study’s results summary, a visual timer can play a valuable role as an intervention in managing interruptions in a healthcare environment. “The percentage of nurses who made errors when performing IV pushes was significantly higher in the pre-intervention condition (16/18; 89%) than in the post-intervention condition (6/19; 32%, p < .001). As hypothesized, when visual timers were used to assist in IV push time management the number of nurses who committed IV push errors was significantly reduced.”
The Time Timer visual timer can play a supportive role in your work routine, no matter the environment or industry. In fact, you’ll never run out of ideas for using Time Timer at home, work, or school!