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      Can You Multitask? Evidence and Limitations of Task Switching and Multitasking in Emergency Medicine.

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          Abstract

          Emergency physicians work in a fast-paced environment that is characterized by frequent interruptions and the expectation that they will perform multiple tasks efficiently and without error while maintaining oversight of the entire emergency department. However, there is a lack of definition and understanding of the behaviors that constitute effective task switching and multitasking, as well as how to improve these skills. This article reviews the literature on task switching and multitasking in a variety of disciplines-including cognitive science, human factors engineering, business, and medicine-to define and describe the successful performance of task switching and multitasking in emergency medicine. Multitasking, defined as the performance of two tasks simultaneously, is not possible except when behaviors become completely automatic; instead, physicians rapidly switch between small tasks. This task switching causes disruption in the primary task and may contribute to error. A framework is described to enhance the understanding and practice of these behaviors.

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          Author and article information

          Journal
          Ann Emerg Med
          Annals of emergency medicine
          1097-6760
          0196-0644
          Aug 2016
          : 68
          : 2
          Affiliations
          [1 ] Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. Electronic address: skaugset@med.umich.edu.
          [2 ] Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.
          [3 ] Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
          [4 ] Department of Emergency Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN.
          Article
          S0196-0644(15)01364-5
          10.1016/j.annemergmed.2015.10.003
          26585046
          Copyright © 2015 American College of Emergency Physicians. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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