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J Nurs Manag. 2010 Nov;18(8):1040-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2010.01166.x. Epub 2010 Oct 4.

Going blank: factors contributing to interruptions to nurses' work and related outcomes.

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Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.



To examine interruptions to nurses' work, the systems issues related to these and the associated outcomes.


While some research has described the role interruptions play in medication errors, work is needed to examine specific factors in the nursing work environment that cause interruptions and to assess the impact of these on nurses' work and patient outcomes.


The present study utilized a mixed method design that involved work observation to detect nursing interruptions in the workplace followed by focus groups with a subsample of nurses.


A total of 13,025 interruptions were observed. Equal numbers of these took place on medical and surgical units. The predominant source of interruptions was members of the health team, who interrupted more frequently on medical units.


Differences in the type of patient and the care needs between medical and surgical units may be a contributing factor to these findings. As members of the health team were among the leading source of interruptions, an interdisciplinary team-based approach to changing the organization and design of work should be explored.


Nurse leaders should examine ways in which nurses' work can benefit from system improvements to reduce interruptions that lead to patient safety issues such as treatment delays and loss of concentration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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