Workplace Interruptions Place Patient Safety at Risk

November 7, 2023

Healthcare professionals in hospitals are interrupted more than 10 times an hour about issues that are not of immediate concern and take the focus away from patient care, according to a recent study. While the observational study was conducted in France, the issue of avoidable interruptions is a universal problem in healthcare settings.
The study authors found that more than half of the interruptions were face to face, while about 11% were via telephone. They lasted less than 30-seconds. Sometimes, healthcare professionals interrupt themselves. But most of the time, it was a person in a managerial role stopping a healthcare professional engaged in patient care delivery. These encounters were twice as likely to happen in a corridor, rather than at the nurses’ station. The study’s authors classify the majority of them as avoidable interruptions. Such interruptions include requests or tasks that are not necessary for patient safety and could occur at another time. Less than 10% of requests came from the patient or their entourage.
The riskiest time in terms of patient care was between noon and 1 p.m., which leads the authors to recommend that healthcare professionals and hospitals protect tasks that occur in that time window. They also suggest educating the medical and nursing professionals about the issue of avoidable interruptions and how best to manage them.
Patient safety is at the heart of ISMIE’s Risk Management education program. Our Patient Safety Center provides robust resources to help reduce risk exposure and protect patient safety. Be sure to visit the Center often for new articles and resources.

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