In Human Factors, Interuptions, Multitasking, Patient Safety on September 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Today I was driving my usual route on a 3 lane parkway near my home. I have a routine of driving in the left lane until I see the traffic light, at which point I begin my transfer into the far right lane for a right turn that I take  in two more lights.

Today a young girl in a red car came from the middle lane and cut in front of me very close. A couple of seconds later she moved back into the middle then into the far right. No sooner did she get into the far right, she moved back into the middle.  After the red light, she surged forward and cut back into the right ahead of the three cars that were stopped at the light. From that point on she was out of my sight….

I decided to pull into Stop and Shop for some groceries.  As I entered the store guess who was picking up a basket at almost the exact time as I was?  Yes, the young girl from the red car.

How much more dangerous did she make her ride to the supermarket by speeding and cutting lanes?  How much more dangerous did she make my ride by cutting in front of me?

Do we increase the danger in our own jobs when we go too fast or switch back and forth between tasks?  Do we really get the task done that much faster?  Do we make someone else’s job more error prone by prodding them to rush?  If I call pharmacy asking them to rush a med so I know I have it for later, am I putting them and my patient in danger?  There was an incident that resulted in a child’s death and the jailing of the pharmacist.  One of the system’s issues cited, was that the pharmacist was rushing to get a medication ready for a specific time per request of the  nurse.  The nurse was actually asking for the med earlier than she needed it to make sure it would be there (ISMP, 2009).

Take a moment and think about tasks that are rushed in the hospital setting either from your own needs or from others pushing you. Other than emergencies, do these things really need to be rushed? Does rushing truly save any time? If so, does rushing influence the safety of a task for you or for others?

I will post more about multitasking and interruptions in the future.

To read more about Eric Cropp the pharmacist mentioned in this post, visit the ISMP website

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