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Distractions lead to mistakes by nurses.

Procedural and clinical errors occur more frequently when nurses are interrupted during the administering of medicines, a study has found.

Researchers tracked 98 nurses at two hospitals in Sydney over two years, during which time they administered almost 4,300 medications in a busy work environment and were frequently interrupted from the task in hand.

'We found a significant dose-response relationship between interruptions and procedural failures and clinical errors in medication administration at both study hospitals,' said Professor Johanna Westbrook from the University of Sydney's Health Informatics Research and Evaluation Unit, who led the study. 'The more interruptions nurses received, the greater the number of errors. Furthermore, we found that, as interruptions increased within a single drug administration, the greater the severity of error. The risk of a patient experiencing a major clinical error doubled in the presence of four or more interruptions.'

The mistakes ranged from nurses forgetting to wash their hands or not reconfirming a patient's identity through to administering the wrong drug dose. In some cases the oversight was life-threatening.

Professor Westbrook said nurses faced a multitude of competing demands while in a hospital ward, and the more they were interrupted the more mistakes they made.

'In 80% of administrations of medication there was at least one procedural failure or one clinical error,' she told Australian Associated Press. 'What we showed is that if you were interrupted you were more likely to make one of those errors.'

With nurses overworked and understaffed, this study lends weight to the NSWNA's campaign for correct staffing levels and manageable workloads.
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Title Annotation:clinical errors during the administering of medicines
Publication:The Lamp
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2010
Words:260
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