Healthcare News & Insights

Study: Cut down on interruptions for ED nurses to improve efficiency

Workflow interruptions, like unexpected phone calls, may seem like minor inconveniences that don’t significantly affect efficiency at your facility. But new research shows when nurses in the emergency department (ED) are interrupted, patient care can suffer.

According to a study from the University of Missouri (“The Impact of Interrupting Nurses on Mental Workload in Emergency Departments”), workflow interruptions in the ED are most likely to happen during electronic health record (EHR) documentation and direct patient care.

Result: When nurses were interrupted while performing patient care tasks, their workload ended up being about two times higher.

When EHR documentation was added, the workload was about four times higher than in a situation where nurses weren’t interrupted.

The researchers also found the five most common interruptions nurses faced while working were:

  • phone calls
  • colleagues
  • residents
  • doctors, and
  • relatives of patients.

Avoid interruptions

The study’s authors recommended training nurses to not answer questions or non-emergency calls while involved in patient care or EHR documentation.

Patients don’t enjoy having their care interrupted or feeling like they’re being overlooked, so when someone comes in and starts talking to a nurse about something irrelevant, it can lead to negative thoughts and might impact whether that patient chooses to return for additional care.

With that in mind, be sure it’s clear to staff members that patient care should never be interrupted unless it’s an emergency or an error has occurred. This can increase patient loyalty, since they’ll know they have a nurse’s full attention at your hospital.

Your employees are smart enough to know when interruptions are appropriate and when they’re not, but it never hurts to offer a refresher.

Culture of respect

Remember: ED nurses often feel overworked and underappreciated, which also affects efficiency. If workers don’t feel respected, they have little incentive to work hard and prioritize patient care over interruptions.

Encourage a culture of positivity throughout your hospital. Staff members and patients will enjoy the experience more.

Example: Consider hosting celebrations for birthdays or major work anniversaries. This will give staff and patients in the hospital something to look forward to in the long term.

It may seem like carving out time (and money) for parties wouldn’t help efficiency. But celebrations don’t have to take a long time – or be expensive. Even a quick 10 minutes for staff to talk and share snacks can boost spirits. Plus, giving employees an outlet for their non-work-related chats cuts down on the amount of time they’ll spend talking instead of doing actual patient care or EHR documentation.

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