Six Ways to Minimize Interruptions for Nurses

Frequent interruptions have become a part of the day to day routine for nurses. Yet studies have shown that these interruptions can be dangerous, leading to wasted time and medication errors.

Of course, if a patient needs immediate attention, a nurse would certainly want to be interrupted in order to take urgent action. But there are other interruptions – such as a request to refill an order – that could wait. Here are some common methods that have been tested to reduce these kinds of interruptions and the safety risks that often come with them.

Designate a “No Interruption Zone”

A “no interruption zone” is a specific area where interruptions are not allowed. To implement these zones, a red boundary can be created around a medication dispensing system – whether indicated with colored duct tape, tile or a small red rug. These visual cues all clearly express that a nurse is not to be disrupted while inside the red zone.

Implement Color-Coded Vests

With this method, nurses wear yellow or other brightly colored safety vests to let members of the medical unit know that medication administration is in progress and they should not be interrupted while pulling and preparing medications. The number of nurses in the medication room at one time should also be limited, and medication administration should not be disturbed to answer telephone calls or respond to call bells.

Medication Quiet Time

“Do Not Disturb” signs posted above medication carts and automated dispensing cabinets can help reduce interruptions for nurses. Many facilities opt for a stop sign shape and design, with the signs posted in clear view on all sides. If there is a concern that staff and others might become used to a permanent sign, removable signs that are displayed only when medication is being administered is one solution. These signs alert others that “medication quiet time” is in effect, limiting communication during medication administration and therefore helping to minimize errors.

Screen Calls

Secretaries evaluate telephone callers’ requests and only forward calls which are essential, rather than disrupting nurses for each one. Some instances of less important calls include issues like laboratory technicians inquiring about a physician’s pager number.

Bedside Rounding

Implementing change of shift bedside rounding in order to identify and address basic patient needs can help decrease common interruptions during the shift. During bedside rounds, both outgoing and incoming nurses check in with each patient, verifying ID bracelet, mental status and IV catheter sites, as well as addressing any questions or concerns the patient has. Bedside rounding also allows nurses to catch any errors related to IV fluids or medications in a more timely manner.

Leave a Message

In addition to other methods to reduce interruptions and distractions, some healthcare facilities choose to use whiteboards to leave messages for nurses. Rather than breaking their concentration to relay what may not be urgent information, a note can be left for nurses who are currently preoccupied, allowing them to retrieve it at their convenience.

Importance of Minimizing Interruptions

Each time a nurse is interrupted, precious minutes are wasted as he or she must refocus on the previous task, evaluating what was already completed and what still needs to be done. With the proper steps taken toward minimizing nurse interruptions, healthcare providers can care for their patients and fully concentrate on the important work at hand.

Learn more:

American Journal of Nursing

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