Limit the Impact of Distractions and Interruptions

Distractions and interruptions can compromise patient safety.

Studies suggest techs may be distracted or interrupted as often as every 2 min...translating to 30 times/hr or over 200 times/shift.

It's scary because a "slip" can have serious consequences.

An alarming example is a clinician who paused to chat...then mistakenly drank the med they were preparing instead of their coffee.

Help limit the impact of distractions and interruptions.

When you train new hires, discourage multitasking whenever accuracy is critical...compounding, filling orders, restocking, etc.

Explain that breaking focus...their own or someone else's...could lead to important details being missed.

For instance, if the pharmacist is verifying orders and a med needs to be checked, advise waiting until they're between patients.

Or when a message must be relayed, suggest leaving a note rather than hovering to catch the colleague's attention.

Consider having one tech manage doorbells, phones, questions at the window, etc...to reduce interruptions for other techs.

Otherwise, work as a team. Step up if you're free and others are occupied. Ask for help if you're in the middle of a task.

When you have to address something urgent, such as a STAT dose, quickly plan how to safely resume your current task.

For example, make sure any meds you've drawn up so far are properly labeled. And when you return, mentally walk through all the steps of the process, even if you don't actually repeat them.

Minimize unnecessary distractions and interruptions...such as by following pharmacy policies on personal cell phone use.

Or if a colleague makes small talk during sterile compounding, say something like, "Let's talk more about that during our break."

If nurses often call for nonurgent med reorders instead of sending a message through the EHR, encourage using proper procedure.

Be aware of ways to help limit distractions and interruptions on patient care units. For instance, don't restock cabinets during common med administration times...and heed "no interruption" zones.

Get our Soft Skills for Pharmacy Technicians toolbox and Optimizing Pharmacy Workflow tech tutorial for more on promoting efficiency, safety, and teamwork.

Key References

  • Appl Nurs Res Published online Feb 4, 2021; doi:10.1016/j.apnr.2021.151405
  • https://psnet.ahrq.gov/perspective/interruptions-and-distractions-health-care-improved-safety-mindfulness (10-1-21)
  • www.ismp.org/resources/side-tracks-safety-express-interruptions-lead-errors-and-unfinished-wait-what-was-i-doing (10-1-21)
Hospital Pharmacy Technician's Letter. October 2021, No. 371028



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