Younger Surgeons Easily Distracted, Resulting in Serious Errors

Representing Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Nearby Areas of Florida

A new study published in Archives of Surgery shows that young surgeons made “major mistakes” over 40% of the time when distracted by noises, conversations, ringing cellphones, or other distractions. 18 young surgeons, aged 27 to 35, were brought in to do a simulated gall bladder removal. While they began performing the simulated procedure, a series of distractions began. A cellphone would ring. A metal tray would clatter to the floor. Colleagues would ask about outcomes from previous surgeries in the day, and off to the side a nurse would begin discussing politics. Eight out of the eighteen surgeons (44%) made major mistakes when distracted. “Major mistakes” are errors like damage to internal organs or severing an artery, some of which could have fatal results when made in an actual operating room. Only one surgeon out of 18 made a mistake when performing the same simulated procedure without distraction. Apparently older, more experienced surgeons have learned to remain focused in the face of distractions, although the risk for the general public as young surgeons learn to do so seems obvious. The lead researcher on this study, Oregon State University professor Robin Feuerbacher, commented: “We’ve presented these findings at a surgical conference before and many experienced surgeons didn’t seem too surprised by the results”. Hopefully these more experienced surgeons will pass along whatever lessons they’ve learned for maintaining focus, so the younger generation can learn to ignore a ringing cellphone while performing risky surgical procedures.