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Designing for distractions: a human factors approach to decreasing interruptions at a centralised medication station


Objective To decrease interruptions around a centrally-located, centralised, open paediatric medication station.

Methods Several established human factors methodologies were used to study paediatric medication administration, including cases with ‘walk through’ and verbal protocols; semi-structured interviews, including critical incident analysis; hierarchical task analysis; and observation.

Results Inexpensive barriers were constructed that protected the tasks likely to lead to errors if interrupted. Meanwhile, sight lines were maintained preserving a family-friendly sense of accessibility of nurses, staff situation awareness and collegiality. Interruptions were significantly reduced and staff attitudes towards the station were significantly improved.

Discussion Targeted barriers may prove useful in other interruptive and chaotic hospital workspaces. They do not require costly training, can be achieved inexpensively and may reduce distractions and interruptions during tasks vulnerable to error. Additionally, the human factors methodologies employed can be applied to other safety improvement projects.

  • Human factors
  • medication safety
  • nurses
  • paediatrics
  • quality improvement
  • patient safety
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