Eye-tracking methodology was used to investigate lapses in the appropriate treatment of ward patients due to not noticing critical cues of deterioration. Forty nursing participants with different levels of experience participated in an interactive screen-based simulation of hypovolemic shock. The results show that 65% of the participants exhibited at least one episode of non-fixation on clinically relevant, fully visible cues that were in plain sight. Thirty-five percent of participants dwelt for sufficient time (>200 ms) on important cues for perception to take place, but no action followed, indicating they had pattern-matching failure. When participants fail to notice what, they should notice in patient status until it is too late, this can have serious consequences. Much work needs to be done, since these human perceptual limitations can affect patient safety in general wards.
Aim: The aim of this review was to identify and synthesise published accounts of recognising and responding to patient deterioration in the presence of deterioration antecedents. Design: The systematic review canvassed four electronic databases/ search engines for studies of adult ward patients who had altered physiological parameters before developing major adverse events. Synthesis Methods: The findings were synthesised using a narrative approach. Results: Clinical deterioration can be missed by nurses, even with adequate charting. Delays in recognising and responding to patient deterioration remains an international patient safety concern, and strategies to enhance recognition of patient deterioration have not achieved consistent improvements. The lack of significant and sustained improvement through targeted training suggests the problem may be rooted in human behaviour and local ward culture. Nurses play a pivotal role in recognising and responding to patient deterioration; however, patient records do not facilitate tracking of all nurse decisions and actions, and any undocumented care cannot be easily captured by auditing processes. Conclusion: Failure to recognise clinical deterioration was evident even with adequate charting. It is not clear if nurses do not recognise clinical deterioration because they failed to interpret the signs of deterioration or they made a conscious decision not to escalate based on their clinical judgement or they lacked attention at the time of the event. Whatever the reason, focus is warranted for nurses' decisionmaking after the recording of clinical deterioration signs and the role of human factors in delayed recognition, before maximum benefit of any strategy can be achieved.