Are mobile telephone interruptions temporally associated with pediatric intensive care unit nurses’ errors during medication administration?
In this cohort study of 257 nurses and 3308 patients in a pediatric intensive care unit, incoming calls on nurses’ institutional mobile telephones occurring in the 10 minutes before medication administration were significantly associated with increased risk of error. The risk was higher during night shifts and among nurses with fewer than 6 months’ experience, and it also varied by nurse to patient ratio and level of patient care required.
This study’s findings suggest that, although communication-related interruptions cannot be eliminated, interventions to reduce the frequency and adverse consequences of interruptions should include consideration of time of day, nurse experience, nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required.
Incoming text messages and calls on nurses’ mobile telephones may interrupt medication administration, but whether such interruptions are associated with errors has not been established.
To assess whether a temporal association exists between mobile telephone interruptions and subsequent errors by pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurses during medication administration.
Design, Setting, and Participants
A retrospective cohort study was performed using telecommunications and electronic health record data from a PICU in a children’s hospital. Data were collected from August 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017. Participants included 257 nurses and the 3308 patients to whom they administered medications.
Primary exposures were incoming telephone calls and text messages received on the institutional mobile telephone assigned to the nurse in the 10 minutes leading up to a medication administration attempt. Secondary exposures were the nurse’s PICU experience, work shift (day vs night), nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Primary outcome, errors during medication administration, was a composite of reported medication administration errors and bar code medication administration error alerts generated when nurses attempted to give medications without active orders for the patient whose bar code they scanned.
Participants included 257 nurses, of whom 168 (65.4%) had 6 months or more of PICU experience; and 3308 patients, of whom 1839 (55.6%) were male, 1539 (46.5%) were white, and 2880 (87.1%) were non-Hispanic. The overall rate of errors during 238 540 medication administration attempts was 3.1% (95% CI, 3.0%-3.3%) when nurses were uninterrupted by incoming telephone calls and 3.7% (95% CI, 3.4%-4.0%) when they were interrupted by such calls. During day shift, the odds ratios (ORs) for error when interrupted by calls (compared with uninterrupted) were 1.02 (95% CI, 0.92-1.13; P = .73) among nurses with 6 months or more of PICU experience and 1.22 (95% CI, 1.00-1.47; P = .046) among nurses with less than 6 months of experience. During night shift, the ORs for error when interrupted by calls were 1.35 (95% CI, 1.16-1.57; P < .001) among nurses with 6 months or more of PICU experience and 1.53 (95% CI, 1.16-2.03; P = .003) among nurses with less than 6 months of experience. Nurses administering medications to 1 or more patients receiving mechanical ventilation and arterial catheterization while caring for at least 1 other patient had an increased risk of error (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.03-1.42; P = .02). Incoming text messages were not associated with error (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.92-1.02; P = .22).
Conclusions and Relevance
This study’s findings suggest that incoming telephone call interruptions may be temporally associated with medication administration errors among PICU nurses. Risk of error varied by shift, experience, nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required.
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Bonafide CP, Miller JM, Localio AR, et al. Association Between Mobile Telephone Interruptions and Medication Administration Errors in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. JAMA Pediatr. 2020;174(2):162–169. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.5001
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