Undergraduate nurses generally learn how to administer medicine in a “calm and uninterrupted” training environment, noted researchers.

But they said this does not reflect the realities of everyday nursing and argued that nurses working on busy wards often have to contend with “multiple interruptions” while giving out medication.

The impact of interruptions can be very serious, highlighted the study authors from Australia and the UK.

If mistakes are made then patients could be harmed or die, families left devastated and the administering nurse may also “suffer professionally, physically and emotionally”, they said.

“Considering that the administration of medications can absorb up to 40% of a nurse’s time and the undeniable links to medication errors, it is imperative that nurses are taught to effectively manage interruptions,” they added.

Students took part in the role play exercise in groups of five, taking on various roles, including playing the part of a nurse trying to give medication, another nurse who interrupts with various requests and a confused patient who also causes interruptions such as asking to go home and to the toilet.

“The student undertaking the registered nurse role was required to administer charted medications to one of the two patients and manage interruptions as they occurred,” they stated in the study paper.

They set out to test whether recreating the more “chaotic” atmosphere of hospital work could prepare students better for clinical practice.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, are based on feedback from more than 450 second year nursing students who took part in a simulated role-play experience at a large university.

Students were debriefed in their role-play groups and then as a whole class. In all 451 of the total 528 students who took part wrote down their thoughts, handing in their feedback within two weeks of the simulation.

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