Traditions of research into interruptions in healthcare: a conceptual review

McCurdie, Tara, Sanderson, Penelope and Aitken, Leanne M. (2017) Traditions of research into interruptions in healthcare: a conceptual review. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 66 23-36. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2016.11.005

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Author McCurdie, Tara
Sanderson, Penelope
Aitken, Leanne M.
Title Traditions of research into interruptions in healthcare: a conceptual review
Journal name International Journal of Nursing Studies   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0020-7489
Publication date 2017-01-01
Year available 2016
Sub-type Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
DOI 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2016.11.005
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 66
Start page 23
End page 36
Total pages 14
Place of publication London, United Kingdom
Publisher Elsevier
Collection year 2017
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: Researchers from diverse theoretical backgrounds have studied workplace interruptions in healthcare, leading to a complex and conflicting body of literature. Understanding pre-existing viewpoints may advance the field more effectively than attempts to remove bias from investigations.

Objective: To identify research traditions that have motivated and guided interruptions research, and to note research questions posed, gaps in approach, and possible avenues for future research.

Methods: A critical review was conducted of research on interruptions in healthcare. Two researchers identified core research communities based on the community's motivations, philosophical outlook, and methods. Among the characteristics used to categorise papers into research communities were the predominant motivation for studying interruptions, the research questions posed, and key contributions to the body of knowledge on interruptions in healthcare. In cases where a paper approached an equal number of characteristics from two traditions, it was placed in a blended research community.

Results: A total of 141 papers were identified and categorised; all papers identified were published from 1994 onwards. Four principal research communities emerged: epidemiology, quality improvement, cognitive systems engineering (CSE), and applied cognitive psychology. Blends and areas of mutual influence between the research communities were identified that combine the benefits of individual traditions, but there was a notable lack of blends incorporating quality improvement initiatives. The question most commonly posed by researchers across multiple communities was: what is the impact of interruptions? Impact was measured as a function of task time or risk in the epidemiology tradition, situation awareness in the CSE tradition, or resumption lag (time to resume an interrupted task) in the applied cognitive psychology tradition. No single question about interruptions in healthcare was shared by all four of the core communities.

Conclusions: Much research on workplace interruptions in healthcare can be described in terms of fundamental values of four distinct research traditions and the communities that bring the values and methods: of those research traditions to their investigations. Blends between communities indicate that mutual influence has occurred as interruptions research has progressed. It is clear from this review that there is no single or privileged perspective to study interruptions. Instead, these findings suggest that researchers investigating interruptions in healthcare would benefit from being more aware of different perspectives from their own, especially when they consider workplace interventions to reduce interruptions.
Keyword Applied cognitive psychology
Cognitive systems engineering
Conceptual review
Patient safety
Quality improvement
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Critical review of research, literature review, critical commentary
Collections: HERDC Pre-Audit
School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering Publications
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