Background Distraction and interruption are endemic in the clinical environment and contribute to error. This study assesses whether simulation-based training with targeted feedback can improve undergraduate management of distractions and interruptions to reduce error-making.
Design A prospective non-randomised controlled study.
Methods 28 final year medical students undertook a simulated baseline ward round. 14 students formed an intervention group and received immediate feedback on distractor management and error. 14 students in a control group received no feedback. After 4 weeks, students participated in a post-intervention ward round of comparable rigour. Changes in medical error and distractor management between simulations were assessed with Mann-Whitney U tests using SPSS V.21.
Results At baseline, error rates were high. The intervention group committed 72 total baseline errors (mean of 5.1 errors/student; median 5; range 3–7). The control group exhibited a comparable number of errors—with a total of 76 observed (mean of 5.4 errors/student; median 6; range 4–7). Many of these errors were life-threatening. At baseline distractions and interruptions were poorly managed by both groups. All forms of simulation training reduced error-making. In the intervention group the total number of errors post-intervention fell from 72 to 17 (mean 1.2 errors/student; median 1; range 0–3), representing a 76.4% fall (p<0.0001). In the control group the total number of errors also fell—from 76 to 44 (mean of 3.1 errors/student; median 3; range 1–5), representing a 42.1% reduction (p=0.0003).
Conclusions Medical students are not inherently equipped to manage common ward-based distractions to mitigate error. These skills can be taught—with simulation and feedback conferring the greatest benefit. Curricular integration of simulated ward round experiences is recommended.
- Human factors
- Medical education
- Patient safety
- Medical error, measurement/epidemiology
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