Research to Help You Better Understand Multitasking

It’s important for healthcare professionals to understand the pros and cons of multitasking and learn different ways to balance the day’s interruptions, which can help reduce stress.

Multitasking is an unavoidable part of a healthcare professional’s life. However, multiple reviews and case studies have linked multitasking to reduced quality of care. So how do we resolve this issue?

After almost three decades of research, the generally accepted conclusion is that humans are not capable of true concurrent multitasking. We cannot focus on several different items equally at the same time. Additionally, chronic multitasking has been linked to:

  • Significantly increased stress, which has long-term health implications (e.g., high blood pressure and heart disease) and can affect brain function in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.
  • Decreased job satisfaction.
  • Decreased IQ.

For most healthcare providers, a large part of multitasking in the workplace is really about managing interruptions. To effectively manage multitasking in healthcare, it is important to recognize the act of the interruption and the nature of the primary task, as well as to “task switch” and “task stack” in order to provide a safe and effective flow while also addressing all needs in order of urgency.

Multitasking should be a conscious act, managed with the appropriate skill sets. It should not be an attitude or a habit but a learned and managed skill. To help manage multitasking:

  • Develop an executive control to consciously shift out of tasks as needed.
  • Use effective tools to return to a previously interrupted task, such as recall techniques (e.g., visual cues and notes) or utilizing support staff.
  • Guard your recovery time, whether it is a few minutes in the doctor’s lounge or in the evenings after work.

Want to learn more? Read the full article here.

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