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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Association of interruptions with an increased risk and severity of medication administration errors.

Westbrook JI, Woods A, Rob MI, et al. Archives of internal medicine. 2010;170:683-90.

Interruptions in nursing activities are a known patient safety concern, particularly around medication administration. Most studies describing this relationship are based on self-reported experiences, surveys, or retrospective analysis of voluntary reports. This study directly observed nurses during medication administration and discovered that each interruption was associated with a 12.1% increase in procedural failures and a 12.7% increase in clinical errors. Interruptions occurred in more than 50% of administrations with error severity increasing with interruption frequency. An alarming finding was that administration without interruptions still generated a procedural failure rate of nearly 70% and a clinical error rate of 25%. The latter findings are discussed further in an invited commentary [see link below] that advocates for greater efforts to improve the medication administration process, including protected times for these activities.