By Christine Moffa, MS, RN, AJN clinical editor
I have a hard time focusing when I am repeatedly interrupted. How many times have you walked down the hall to get something, met with an unexpected request or encounter, and then found you couldn’t remember where you were going or why?
A few years ago I was working as float nurse in an outpatient facility. One of the specialties I floated to was the pediatric clinic. There were seven or eight nurses (a mix of RNs and LPNs) working at the same time, with half assigned to administering medication, mostly vaccines, and the others performing telephone triage and monitoring patients in the observation room. I can now admit that I used to pray to get assigned to the triage section—not because giving injections was a problem, but because the setup of their system terrified me. Typically, four nurses would work out of a small room in which they picked up medication orders, checked that the immunization schedule was being followed correctly, drew up the medication, and documented in the patients’ charts.
Keep in mind that many of the patients were infants and toddlers getting up to four injections at one visit. If keeping track of all that wasn’t hard enough, these nurses were also charged with filling out insurance and physical forms. Because of this, patients’ family members frequently interrupted a nurse in the middle of drawing up four vaccines in order to ask about an insurance form.
That’s why I was thrilled when I came across this article about a program put in place by the University of California at San Francisco’s Integrated Nurse Leadership Progam to reduce distractions during medication administration. The nurses used simple methods like wearing a sash or a colored vest to alert others that they were not to be interrupted. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the program has “resulted in a nearly 88 % drop in errors over 36 months at the nine Bay Area hospitals.”
I wish that the public would be brought into the equation as well. After all, they do much of the interrupting. I wonder if, given an option, they would prefer their child to be injected by a nurse in the scenario I described above, or by one in a hospital where nurses can actually concentrate.