Using the activation goal memory framework, this study categorized 256 separate emergency department interruptions in a large research hospital setting. Prior to and following their shift, twelve physicians completed a semi-structured qualitative survey about their experiences with, and perceptions of, interruptions at work. During their shift, these physicians were shadowed and the interruptions they experienced were documented. Frequencies of four types of interruptions were tallied: Direct reminders, indirect reminders, memory lapses and no reported memory change. Memory events were a significant proportion of interruptions (47%). Direct reminders comprised the largest majority, followed by memory lapses, indirect reminders and combination memory events. Both prior to and following their shifts, physicians overestimated both the harmfulness of interruptions to themselves and the helpfulness of interruptions to the interrupter. Physicians perceived the majority of interruptions they experienced as justified.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Interruption (Psychology); Emergency physicians--Psychology; Memory--Research
Department, Program, or Center
Department of Psychology (CLA)
Walders, Kate, "The Effect of interruptions on prospective memory in the emergency department" (2012). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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