Workflow Interruptions: Risk Factors and Outcomes in Nursing
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Introduction: Workflow interruptions in nursing are defined as the disruption of a nursing task. Workflow interruptions are a common stressor in nurses’ work, leading to deviations in their focus that can result in medication errors and missed nursing tasks. Thus, they can compromise patient safety, health outcomes, and satisfaction. Moreover, interruptions can cause stress, burnout, and reduce job satisfaction among nurses. It is important to recognize that there are solutions that would prepare nurses for reducing workflow interruptions and improving their work patterns. The purpose of this literature review was to identify the causes of interruptions, their effects on patients and nurses, and existing evidence-based strategies to prevent workflow interruptions among registered nurses. Methods: A search was conducted to identify research on the characteristics of interruptions, their effects on nurses as well as patients, and evidence-based interventions. The inclusion criteria included articles published in academic journals in English within the past ten years. The search was conducted through the Northern Illinois University library databases and Google Scholar with the key terms workflow, interruption, nursing, disruption, and evidence-based practice. Results: The literature showed that interruptions can be categorized as internal (e.g., self-induced conversations during nursing tasks) and external (e.g., care- and technology-related interruptions). Positive and negative outcomes related to flow disruptions were also identified. Interventions, such as implementing no interruption zones or adopting positive work beliefs, were found to be effective in significantly reducing interruptions as well as decreasing their negative effects. Conclusion: Workflow interruptions can be significantly reduced by implementing evidence-based practices. Nurses should be informed that positive work beliefs can decrease the amount of stress experienced as a result of the complex nature of their work. However, more research is needed to find the effects of such initiatives related to patient outcomes.