Incoming Phone Calls Linked to Nursing Errors

Posted in: Medical Malpractice | Feb 07,2020

Hectic schedules and too many patients to care for – these are just some of the factors involved in nursing errors that are serious enough to cause harm to patients. Another lesser known factor is distractions caused by cell phones.

According to a recently published study, incoming phone calls are associated with a higher risk of errors involving nurses. The study focused on 257 nurses, and measured their attention spans in the ten minutes leading up to a medication attempt, when they were disturbed by an incoming phone call. The researchers found that the overall nursing error rate was 3.1. percent when the nurses were uninterrupted by a phone call. That rate jumped to 3.7 percent when the nurses were distracted by phone calls.

There were also other findings from the study. The researchers found that less- experienced nurses were much more likely to be influenced or distracted by incoming phone calls, compared to more experienced nurses. The error rate for nurses who had been on the job for less than six months was 1.22 percent, while the error rate for nurses with more than 6 moths of experience was 1.02 percent.

Similar increased error rates were seen in nurses who were disturbed by incoming cell phone calls during the night shift, compared to the day shift. Also, nurses who were involved in the care of patients on ventilation or arterial catheterization, while also being responsible for the care of another patient were also found to be more likely to be distracted by a cell phone call leading to an error, compared to other nurses who did not have these responsibilities.

The researchers stop short of drawing a firm correlation between incoming cell phone calls and medical errors by nursing staff.

Nurses are prone to making different types of errors that can harm patients. One of the more common of these errors is medication errors in which a nurse delivers the wrong drug, the wrong dosage of the drug or uses the wrong form of drug administration. Many of these types of errors are linked to distractions or fatigue.  These errors are also linked to serious health implications for patients.