Identifying Strategies for the Management of Interruptions for Novice Triage Nurses Using an Online Modified Delphi Method

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2021 Nov;53(6):718-726. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12683. Epub 2021 Jun 2.


Purpose: To use the Delphi Method to identify strategies used by triage nurses to effectively manage interruptions.

Design: This study was based on the concepts of Benner's Novice to Expert Model. An online, modified Delphi approach was used to engage triage, education, and operational management experts in generating consensus recommendations on successful strategies to address triage interruptions in the emergency department.

Methods and analysis: A panel of nine triage, education, and operational management experts were selected based on their publication and presentation history. This panel participated in three Delphi rounds, providing individual responses during each round. All responses were entered into a RedCap database, which allowed research team members to synthesize the results and return summaries to the participants. Final consensus was reached among this panel regarding recommendations for successful strategies to address triage interruptions that can be encompassed in a training module. The experts were then asked to identify the best instructional modality for teaching each of the interruption management strategies.

Findings: Eight strategies to mitigate the impact of interruptions were identified: (a) ensure nurses understand impact of interruptions; (b) ensure nurses understand consequences of interruptions on cognitive demands of healthcare workers that could influence behavior and lead to errors; (c) apologize to current patient before tending to interruption and give expectation of when you will return; (d) triage the interruption and decide to (i) ignore interruption, (ii) acknowledge, but delay servicing, interruption, or (iii) acknowledge and service interruption, delaying completion of interrupted task; (e) identify urgent communication as anything clinically significant that impacts the patient immediately or requires immediate intervention; (f) use focused questions to clarify whether interruption can wait; (g) redirect nonpriority interruptions; and (h) finish safety-critical task or tasks near completion before tending to an interruption. The Delphi participants recommended the best teaching modality was simulation for six of the strategies.

Conclusions: Participants agreed that there are strategies that can be taught to novice triage nurses to mitigate the impact of interruptions. The experts in operations management, emergency nursing, and education agree that creating simulations to teach each of these strategies is an effective way to educate nurses.

Clinical relevance: Interruptions impact the quality of care provided to patients. Training nurses to prevent interruptions and mitigate the impact of interruptions when they occur has the potential to improve patient outcomes.

Keywords: Delphi Method; education; interruption management; interruptions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Delphi Technique
  • Emergency Nursing*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Triage*