Few studies have investigated interruptions to the work of professionals practicing in inpatient hospitals, and even fewer take account of the functions that make up the system. Safety of care can be improved by considering avoidable interruptions during interactions between managerial and care delivery functions. The present study describes the characteristics of interruptions to the work of professionals working in the inpatient hospital sector, with respect to their typology, frequency, duration, and avoidability in the context of interactions between functions.
This direct observational study of interruptions in hospital care was performed in the Pays de la Loire (west coast) area of France. A total of 23 teams (17 institutions) working in medical or surgical specialties (excluding intensive care) were included. Observations were performed between May and September 2019, and lasted seven consecutive hours per team. A pair of observers simultaneously observed the same professional for approximately 30 minutes. Each occupational category was examined. Reported characteristics were: (i) the method and duration of the request, (ii) the location of interrupted and interrupting persons, (iii) the reaction of the interrupted person, (iv) the characteristics of the interrupting person; and (v) the classification of interrupted and interrupting tasks according to their function. An avoidable interruption was defined. Interruptions during interactions between professionals were categorised in terms of their function and avoidability. Descriptive statistical analyses (mean, standard deviation, distribution) were run. In particular, cross-comparisons were run to highlight avoidability interruptions and interactions between managerial and care delivery functions during the working day, for different professional categories, and for the location of the request.
Overall, 286 interrupted professionals were observed and 1,929 interruptions were characterised. The majority of interruptions were due to a face-to-face request (58.7%), lasting ≤30 seconds (72.5%). Professionals engaged in the response in 49.3% of cases. A total of 57.4% of interruptions were avoidable. The average number of interruptions was 10.5 (SD=3.2) per hour per professional. An analysis of avoidability and interactions between managerial and care delivery functions found that the period between 12:00 and 13:00 was the riskiest in terms of care safety.
This study highlighted the characteristics of interruptions to the activity of professionals working in inpatient hospitals. Care teams could focus on making medical and nursing professionals much more aware of the importance of interruptions, and each team could decide how to best-manage interruptions, in the context of their specific working environment.