May 21st, 2010
The Perils of Multitasking
How often do you find yourself trying to do so many things at once that you either make, or come close to making, a mistake in patient care? In an article recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, nurses who were interrupted during medication administration were more likely to make a medication error. Is this just another example of research supporting common sense, or are there implications here for fellows and faculty alike?
I’m currently on service in the CCU, traveling to give a talk at the AHA’s Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke meeting, finalizing our rank list, and trying to get our research group’s abstracts ready for submission…. Oh, and I’m also late getting this blog posted for CardioExchange! Is it any surprise that I sometimes have to stop myself from multitasking while seeing a patient?
We faculty ask our fellows to multitask as well. We give you major service obligations — and expect you to read and actively learn, move your research projects forward, and prepare a series of formal presentations. Meanwhile, your pagers beep incessantly.
How many errors of judgment are due to this frenetic pace and the multitasking that seems to be required? Would fellows (and faculty) learn and perform better if we eliminated the distractions caused by multitasking? Is this just an inevitable byproduct of modern society? Or do solutions exist to minimize patient risk?
We’d love to learn your thoughts on this very modern problem.