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Galatzan BJ, Carrington JM. Res Nurs Health. 2021;44(5):833-843.
During handoffs, nurses are exposed to a variety of interruptions and distractions which may lead to cognitive overload. Using natural language processing, researchers analyzed ten audio-recorded change of shift handoffs to estimate the cognitive load experienced by nurses. Nurses’ use of concise language has the potential to decrease cognitive overload and improve patient outcomes.
Ali A, Miller MR, Cameron S, et al. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021;Epub Oct 26.
Interhospital transfer of critical care patients presents patient safety risks. This retrospective study compared adverse event rates between pediatric patient transport both with, and without, parent or family presence. Adverse event rates were not significantly impacted by parental presence.
Lafferty M, Harrod M, Krein SL, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28(12):28(12).
Use of one-way communication technologies, such as pagers, in hospitals have led to workarounds to improve communication. Through observation, shadowing, interviews, and focus groups with nurses and physicians, this study describes antecedents, types, and effects of workarounds and their potential impact on patient safety.
Berdot S, Vilfaillot A, Bézie Y, et al. BMC Nurs. 2021;20(1):153.
Interruptions have been identified as a common source of medication errors. In this study of the effectiveness of a “do not interrupt” vest worn by nurses from medication preparation to administration, neither medication administration error or interruption rates improved.
Winters BD, Slota JM, Bilimoria KY. JAMA. 2021;326(12):1207.
Alarm fatigue is a pervasive contributor to distractions and error. This discussion examines how, while minimizing nuisance alarms is important, those efforts need to be accompanied by safety culture enhancements to realize lasting progress toward alarm reduction.
Boquet A, Cohen T, Diljohn F, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17(6):e534-e539.
This study classified flow disruptions affecting the anesthesia team during cardiothoracic surgeries. Disruptions were classified into one of six human factors categories: communication, coordination, equipment issues, interruptions, layout, and usability. Interruptions accounted for nearly 40% of disruptions (e.g., events related to alerts, distractions, searching activity, spilling/dropping, teaching moment).
Clabaugh M, Beal JL, Illingworth Plake KS. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2021;61(6):761-771.
Patient safety concerns in community pharmacies have been documented in the media. This study sought to examine the association of working conditions and patient safety. Results indicate that while all participants reported negative company climate and workflow, those in chain pharmacies reported significantly more fear of speaking up about patient safety issues than those in independent, big box, or grocery pharmacies.
Small K, Sidebotham M, Gamble J, et al. Midwifery. 2021;102:103074.
Health information technologies intended to reduce patient harm may have unintended consequences (UC). Midwives describe the unintended consequences of central fetal monitoring technology. These consequences included potential loss of patient trust in the midwife, changes in clinical practice, and increased documentation during labor. The authors recommend reevaluation of use of central fetal monitoring due to potential UC without demonstrating improvements in maternal safety.
Bubric KA, Biesbroek SL, Laberge JC, et al. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021;47(9):556-562.
Unintentionally retained foreign objects (RFO) following surgery is a never event. In this study, researchers observed 36 surgical procedures to quantify and describe interruptions and distractions present during surgical counting. Interruptions (e.g., the surgeon or another nurse talking to the scrub nurse) and distractions (e.g., music, background noise) were common. Several suggestions to minimize interruptions and distractions during surgical counts are made.

Arvidsson L, Lindberg M, Skytt B, et al. J Clin Nurs. Epub 2021 Jul 6. 


Healthcare associated infections (HAI) affect thousands of hospitalized patients each year. This study evaluated working conditions that impact risk behaviors, such as missed hand hygiene, that may contribute to HAI. Main findings indicate that interruptions and working with colleagues were associated with increased risk behaviors.
Udeh C, Canfield C, Briskin I, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28(8):1791-1795.
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems have the potential to reduce error, but their poor CPOE design, implementation and use can contribute to patient safety risks. In this study, researchers found that restricting the number of concurrently open electronic health records did not significantly reduce wrong patient selection errors in their hospital’s CPOE system.
Mcmullan RD, Urwin R, Gates PJ, et al. Int J Qual Health Care. 2021;33(2):mzab068.
Distractions in the operating room are common and can lead to errors. This systematic review including 27 studies found that distractions, interruptions, and disruptions in the operating room are associated with a range of negative outcomes. These include longer operative duration, impaired team performance, self-reported errors by colleagues, surgical errors, surgical site infections, and fewer patient safety checks.
Nurses play a critical role in patient safety through their constant presence at the patient's bedside. However, staffing issues and suboptimal working conditions can impede a nurse’s ability to detect and prevent adverse events.
Campbell AA, Harlan T, Campbell M, et al. J Nurs Scholarsh. 2021;53(3):333-342.
Using electronic health records, call light systems, and bar-code medication administration systems, this study examined the impact of six specific workload variables on nurses’ medication administration errors. At least one of the six variables was significantly associated with the occurrence or nonoccurrence of a near miss medication error in the majority of nurses. Because the specific variable(s) differed for each individual nurse, interventions addressing medication administration errors should be tailored to individual nurse risk factors.
Fiorinelli M, Di Mario S, Surace A, et al. Appl Nurs Res. 2021;58:151405.
Smartphones have become ubiquitous among healthcare professionals for both personal and patient care purposes. This review explored positive (improved performance; access to information about medications) and negative (distraction from core clinical tasks) consequences of nurses’ smartphone use during work. Healthcare workplaces should implement policies to restrict when and where smartphones can be used for personal purposes.
Mahadevan K, Cowan E, Kalsi N, et al. Open Heart. 2020;7.
Distractions and interruptions are common during delivery of health care. In this evaluation of 194 cardiac catheterization procedures at a single hospital, the authors found that fewer than half of all procedures were completed without interruption or distraction. The authors propose several actions such as the use of a ‘sterile cockpit’ to reduce distractions and improve patient safety.

Rickert J, Lee MJ. Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2013-2021.

This quarterly commentary explores a wide range of subjects associated with patient safety, such as the impact of disruptive behavior on teams, the value of apologies, and safety challenges due to COVID-19. Older materials are available online for free.
Gui JL, Nemergut EC, Forkin KT. J Clin Anesth. 2020;68:110110.
Distractions and interruptions are common in health care delivery. This literature review discusses the range of operating room distractions (from common events such as “small talk” to more intense distractions such as unavailable equipment) that can affect anesthesia practice, and their likely impact on patient safety.
Schroers G, Ross JG, Moriarty H. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021;47(1):38-53.
Medication errors are a common source of patient harm. This systematic review synthesizing qualitative evidence concluded that nurses’ perceived causes of medication administration errors are multifactorial, interconnected, and stem from systems issues. Perceived causes included lack of medication knowledge, fatigue, complacency, heavy workloads, and interruptions.