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Skilled workers more prone to errors when interrupted

Highly skilled workers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere are more prone to make mistakes when interrupted than less skilled ones, according to research. A study on the subject, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, was conducted by researchers at Michigan State University and funded by the Office of Naval Research.

According to the study, experienced workers typically complete procedural tasks at a faster rate than less experienced workers. This means that their actions are more closely spaced together and potentially more confusable if interrupted. For example, if experienced nurses are interrupted while preparing to administer a dose of medication, it may be more difficult for them to later remember if the dose was actually administered. Meanwhile, a less experienced nurse may work more slowly and have an easier time remembering.

The authors of the study had 224 people perform two sessions of a computer-based procedural task on different days. In the first session, study participants were randomly interrupted and then asked to remember the last step they performed before the interruption. In the second session, the participants were able to complete the procedural tasks faster and more accurately. However, they were less likely to correctly identify the last step they performed before being interrupted. According to the authors of the study, the faster things happen, the more difficult it is to remember them. They recommend that emergency workers receive training and equipment to help them remember where they left off if interrupted.

There are times where hospital staff becomes so overworked that medical errors are committed. Patients who have been harmed as a result may want to meet with a medical malpractice attorney to discuss their options.

Source: MSU Today, "Skilled Workers More Prone To Mistakes When Interrupted," Erik Altmann, March 17, 2017

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