Systematic review of interruptions in the emergency department work environment

Valerie Danesh, Farzan Sasangohar, Ann Sofie Kallberg, Emily B. Kean, Juliana J. Brixey, Kimberly D. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this systematic review is to describe the operationalization of interruptions measurement and to synthesize the evidence on the causes and consequences of interruptions in the emergency department (ED) work environment. Methods: This systematic review of studies explores the causes and consequences of interruptions in the ED. Of 2836 abstract/titles screened, 137 full-text articles were reviewed, and 44 articles met inclusion criteria of measuring ED interruptions. Results: All articles reported primary data collection, and most were cohort studies (n = 30, 68%). Conceptual or operational definitions of interruptions were included in 27 articles. Direct observation was the most common approach. In half of the studies, quantitative measures of interruptions in the ED were descriptive only, without measurements of interruptions’ consequences. Twenty-two studies evaluated consequences, including workload, delays, satisfaction, and errors. Overall, relationships between ED interruptions and their causes and consequences are primarily derived from direct observation within large academic hospitals using heterogeneous definitions. Collective strengths of interruptions research in the ED include structured methods of naturalistic observation and definitions of interruptions derived from concept analysis. Limitations are conflicting and complex evaluations of consequences attributed to interruptions, including the predominance of descriptive reports characterizing interruptions without direct measurements of consequences. Conclusions: The use of standardized definitions and measurements in interruptions research could contribute to measuring the impact and influence of interruptions on clinicians’ productivity and efficiency as well as patients’ outcomes, and thus provide a basis for intervention research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101175
Pages (from-to)101175
JournalInternational Emergency Nursing
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • ED
  • Emergency department
  • Human factors
  • Interruptions
  • Systematic review
  • Work environment
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Workplace
  • Workload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency


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