First name
Last name


Association Between Mobile Telephone Interruptions and Medication Administration Errors in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Year of Publication


Date Published

2019 Dec 20

ISSN Number



<p><strong>Importance: </strong>Incoming text messages and calls on nurses' mobile telephones may interrupt medication administration, but whether such interruptions are associated with errors has not been established.</p>

<p><strong>Objective: </strong>To assess whether a temporal association exists between mobile telephone interruptions and subsequent errors by pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) nurses during medication administration.</p>

<p><strong>Design, Setting, and Participants: </strong>A retrospective cohort study was performed using telecommunications and electronic health record data from a PICU in a children's hospital. Data were collected from August 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017. Participants included 257 nurses and the 3308 patients to whom they administered medications.</p>

<p><strong>Exposures: </strong>Primary exposures were incoming telephone calls and text messages received on the institutional mobile telephone assigned to the nurse in the 10 minutes leading up to a medication administration attempt. Secondary exposures were the nurse's PICU experience, work shift (day vs night), nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required.</p>

<p><strong>Main Outcomes and Measures: </strong>Primary outcome, errors during medication administration, was a composite of reported medication administration errors and bar code medication administration error alerts generated when nurses attempted to give medications without active orders for the patient whose bar code they scanned.</p>

<p><strong>Results: </strong>Participants included 257 nurses, of whom 168 (65.4%) had 6 months or more of PICU experience; and 3308 patients, of whom 1839 (55.6%) were male, 1539 (46.5%) were white, and 2880 (87.1%) were non-Hispanic. The overall rate of errors during 238 540 medication administration attempts was 3.1% (95% CI, 3.0%-3.3%) when nurses were uninterrupted by incoming telephone calls and 3.7% (95% CI, 3.4%-4.0%) when they were interrupted by such calls. During day shift, the odds ratios (ORs) for error when interrupted by calls (compared with uninterrupted) were 1.02 (95% CI, 0.92-1.13; P = .73) among nurses with 6 months or more of PICU experience and 1.22 (95% CI, 1.00-1.47; P = .046) among nurses with less than 6 months of experience. During night shift, the ORs for error when interrupted by calls were 1.35 (95% CI, 1.16-1.57; P &lt; .001) among nurses with 6 months or more of PICU experience and 1.53 (95% CI, 1.16-2.03; P = .003) among nurses with less than 6 months of experience. Nurses administering medications to 1 or more patients receiving mechanical ventilation and arterial catheterization while caring for at least 1 other patient had an increased risk of error (OR, 1.21; 95% CI, 1.03-1.42; P = .02). Incoming text messages were not associated with error (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.92-1.02; P = .22).</p>

<p><strong>Conclusions and Relevance: </strong>This study's findings suggest that incoming telephone call interruptions may be temporally associated with medication administration errors among PICU nurses. Risk of error varied by shift, experience, nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required.</p>



Alternate Title

JAMA Pediatr




Subscription is not available for this page.