Interruptions in workflow for RNs in a Level One Trauma Center.

Publication Date



AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2005; 2005: 86–90.


An understanding of interruptions in healthcare is important for the design, implementation, and evaluation of health information systems and for the management of clinical workflow and medical errors. The purpose of this study is to identify and classify the types of interruptions experienced by ED nurses working in a Level One Trauma Center. This was an observational field study of Registered Nurses employed in a Level One Trauma Center using the shadowing method. Results of the study indicate that nurses were both recipients and initiators of interruptions. Telephone, pagers, and face-to-face conversations were the most common sources of interruptions. Unlike other industries, the outcomes caused by interruptions resulting in medical errors, decreased efficiency and increased cost have not been systematically studied in healthcare. Our study presented here is an initial step to understand the nature, causes, and effects of interruptions, and to develop interventions to manage interruptions to improve healthcare quality and patient safety. We developed an ethnographic data collection technique and a data coding method for the capturing and analysis of interruptions. The interruption data we collected are systematic, comprehensive, and close to exhaustive. They confirmed the findings from early studies by other researchers that interruptions are frequent events in critical care and other healthcare settings. We are currently using these data to analyze the workflow dynamics of ED clinicians, identify the bottlenecks of information flow, and develop interventions to improve the efficiency of emergency care through the management of interruptions.


Communication, Humans, Nursing Staff, Hospital, Task Performance and Analysis, Trauma Centers


PMCID: PMC1560877