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Surgeons not immune to distractions and mistakes

Many of us have difficulty performing job duties or other important tasks while distracted. Employees who are distracted by aside conversations or other stimuli tend to exhibit a decrease in productivity and an increase in mistakes and errors. A new study shows that surgeons are no different and that, when distracted, the likelihood of surgical errors occurring greatly increases.

The study looked at a small sample of 18 surgeons ages 27 to 35. Using a virtual simulator, the young surgeons were asked to perform a gall bladder removal procedure. While the surgery was underway, various distractions were queued to occur.

The results of the study showed that, when distracted, 44 percent of the surgeons made serious mistakes. Conversations among operating staff, questions about other patients and general noises were all deemed to be distractions that may result in serious or even fatal surgical errors.

The most distracting and potentially harmful distractions for surgeons revolved around questions related to another patient. Additionally, conversations amongst operating medical staff were also found to be highly distracting for surgeons. The study also found that the time of day the surgeons were tested had an impact. Surgeons tested in the morning reported fewer mistakes than those tested in the afternoon.

Researchers who conducted the study hope their findings will help promote changes in how surgeons are trained and reduce instances of surgical errors. Additionally, their findings may be instrumental in bringing about changes in operating room policies.

Source: iVillage, "Young Surgeons May Be Easily Distracted," Healthday, Dec. 4, 2012

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