Intensive care unit nurses' information needs and recommendations for integrated displays to improve nurses' situation awareness.
The commonly used expression "missing the forest for the trees" is a shorthand summary of the concept of situational awareness—the degree to which a clinician's perception matches reality. Situational awareness requires that clinicians can perceive the information they need, comprehend the importance of this information, and forecast the implications of this information (i.e., adverse consequences that might happen). Nurses' role in patient safety is largely dependent on maintaining situational awareness, and this study used direct observation of intensive care unit (ICU) nurses in three hospitals to assess the degree to which monitoring devices and other information displays supported each phase of situational awareness. The authors found that the design of bedside information displays often impaired nurses' ability to gather critical patient data, particularly around medications, resulting in the potential to harm situational awareness. The authors make recommendations, based on human factors engineering principles, to improve the quality of information displays in the ICU.