Anesthesia Workspaces for Safe Medication Practices: Design Guidelines

HERD. 2024 Jan;17(1):64-83. doi: 10.1177/19375867231190646. Epub 2023 Aug 8.


Background: Studies show that workspace for the anesthesia providers is prone to interruptions and distractions. Anesthesia providers experience difficulties while performing critical medication tasks such as medication preparation and administration due to poor ergonomics and configurations of workspace, equipment clutter, and limited space which ultimately may impact patient safety, length of surgery, and cost of care delivery. Therefore, improving design of anesthesia workspace for supporting safe and efficient medication practices is paramount.

Objectives: The objective of this study was to develop a set of evidence-based design guidelines focusing on design of anesthesia workspace to support safer anesthesia medication tasks in operating rooms (ORs).

Methods: Data collection was based on literature review, observation, and coding of more than 30 prerecorded videos of outpatient surgical procedures to identify challenges experienced by anesthesia providers while performing medication tasks. Guidelines were then reviewed and validated using short survey.

Results: Findings are summarized into seven evidence-based design guidelines, including (1) locate critical tasks within a primary field of vision, (2) eliminate travel into and through the anesthesia zone (for other staff), (3) identify and demarcate a distinct anesthesia zone with adequate space for the anesthesia provider, (4) optimize the ability to reposition/reconfigure the anesthesia workspace, (5) minimize clutter from equipment, (6) provide adequate and appropriately positioned surfaces for medication preparation and administration, and (7) optimize task and surface lighting.

Conclusion: This study finds many areas for improving design of ORs. Improvements of anesthesia work area will call for contribution and cooperation of entire surgical team.

Keywords: anesthesia workspace; evidence-based design guidelines; interruptions; medication tasks; operating room.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesia*
  • Ergonomics
  • Humans
  • Patient Safety
  • Surveys and Questionnaires