Interruptions during the delivery of high-risk medications

J Nurs Adm. 2010 May;40(5):211-8. doi: 10.1097/NNA.0b013e3181da4047.


Objective: The goal of this study was to assess the nature and frequency of interruptions during medication administration and the interruptions' effects on task efficiency to guide healthcare managers/executives in improving patient safety and staff productivity.

Background: Interruptions have been identified as causal factors in medication administration errors. Research, however, is needed to assess the nature and frequency of interruptions throughout specific stages of the medication administration process and to develop mitigation interventions.

Method: A direct observation study was conducted to document the nature, frequency, and timing of interruptions during specific stages of medication administration in a chemotherapy daycare unit.

Results: Nurses were interrupted, on average, 22% of their time and were frequently interrupted while performing safety-critical tasks. Task completion times were greater for interrupted tasks than for uninterrupted tasks.

Conclusion: Nurses are frequently interrupted during safety-critical stages of medication administration, which decreases task efficiency and could lead to adverse events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention*
  • Drug Administration Schedule*
  • Drug Monitoring / standards*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medication Systems, Hospital
  • Safety Management