• avoidability;
  • drug round;
  • errors in drug administration;
  • interruptions;
  • patient safety

Aims  The purpose of the study was to examine the frequency and perceived risk of interruptions to nurses during drug rounds in seven Italian surgical wards.

Background  Management of drug therapy is an integral part of the clinical role of nurses. Many errors are caused by interruptions to which the nurse is subjected during the drug rounds. However, the frequency of interruptions to nurses during drug rounds has not yet been documented.

Materials and methods  An observational study design was developed: (1) 56 randomized drug rounds, eight for each ward included, were observed and (2) 28 convenience samples of observed nurses were interviewed.

Results  The administration of a total of 945 medications was observed, an average of 2.2 per patient being treated: 298 interruptions were observed (one for every 3.2 drugs given). Ten different categories of interruption emerged. The highest risk of error as a result of interruption perceived by these nurses was related to the management of telephone calls.

Implications for nursing management  Many of the interruptions as a result of the organization of work could be avoided: one organizational priority should be to create a calm atmosphere for administering drugs. Ways to develop a calm atmosphere are discussed.