Distractions lead to medical mistakes for surgeons

There's No Substitute for Experience

Think about your job: If you were in the middle of your work, and someone came up to you and started asking you questions, forcing you to divert your attention from the task at hand, would there be a good chance that you would make a mistake at the original job you were asked to do?

While it's not guaranteed every time, one could certainly assume that diverting your attention would increase the risk of making a mistake. Of course, for most of our jobs, a mistake -- while not something our bosses would appreciate -- would still not be life-changing. However, when a surgeon is the one to make a medical mistake, the consequences can be quite dire for the patient.

A recent study, published in the journal Archives of Surgery, found that 44 percent of young surgeons made a mistake during surgery when they were distracted. These distractions ranged from being asked questions about another patient to a cellphone ringing.

Of all the distractions that were included in this simulated gall bladder removal operation -- an operation that demands a high level of skill and concentration -- it was found that side conversations happening around the surgeons, and being asked questions about another patient while in the operating room, were distractions that resulted in a higher number of mistakes.

The same study also found surgeons were more likely to make a mistake due to distractions in the afternoon than in the morning. One could assume this is due to the fact that by the afternoon hours surgeons were simply not as alert, and overall, more prone to medical mistakes.

It should be noted, that in this study, the surgeons were between the ages of 27 to 35. And while the rate for medical mistakes may be lower for older surgeons who are used to distractions, the truth is that any surgeon, regardless of age, can still end up making a mistake due to being overworked and distractions.

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