An observational study of activities and multitasking performed by clinicians in two Swedish emergency departments

Department of Emergency Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Stockholm, Sweden.
European Journal of Emergency Medicine (Impact Factor: 1.58). 09/2011; 19(4):246-51. DOI: 10.1097/MEJ.0b013e32834c314a
Source: PubMed


To explore the type and frequency of activities and multitasking performed by emergency department clinicians.
Eighteen clinicians (licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and medical doctors), six from each occupational group, at two Swedish emergency departments were followed in their clinical work for 2 h each to observe all their activities and multitasking practices. Data were analysed using qualitative and quantitative content analysis.
Fifteen categories of activities could be identified based on 1882 observed activities during the 36 h of observation. The most common activity was information exchange, which was most often performed face-to-face. This activity represented 42.1% of the total number of observed activities. Information exchange was also the most common activity to be multitasked. Registered nurses performed most activities and their activities were multitasked more than the other clinicians. The nurses' and doctors' offices were the most common locations for multitasking in the emergency department.
This study provides new knowledge regarding the activities conducted by clinicians in the emergency department. The most frequent activity was information exchange, which was the activity most often performed by the clinicians when multitasking occurred. Differences between clinicians were found for activities performed and multitasked, with registered nurses showing the highest frequencies for both.

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