The veterinary brain, interrupted

Interruptions kill productivity, making your brain work harder to cope. Try these 12 steps to increase your focus and enhance patient care.
Jun 01, 2014

We've all been there: highly focused, deep in concentration, and then you hear it—a quiet knock and a rushed, "Do you have a second?" from a coworker. It's not her fault, of course, but nonetheless, you've been interrupted.

A recent Wall Street Journal article (September 10, 2013), says that it can take "over 25 minutes, on average, to resume a task after an interruption," which means it's possible or even likely that interruptions in your veterinary clinic could compromise productivity and ultimately, your profits.

Making matters worse, a study performed by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General confirms that error rates increase dramatically after a person has been interrupted. The journal's study showed that even the briefest of interruptions, which amounted to less than 3 seconds, could disrupt the mind's flow for minutes afterward—again, a feeling many of us might recognize. These lapses in concentration could then lead to mistakes in dosing, medications, instructions and completing other tasks.

In veterinary practice, we see mistakes with written prescriptions to the local pharmacy every day. Even with an audit, a practice's prescriptions still go out the door with errors. And our suppliers aren't immune, either. While unpacking a delivery, one might find the wrong products, the wrong counts or invoicing errors. After all, even packers get interrupted. Worse yet, how many distraction-induced mistakes affect animals every day? How many cats might receive 1.0 ml versus 0.1 ml of meloxicam because someone was interrupted?