Human attention cannot be focused on multiple things at the same time. Memory capacity for information held in consciousness that can be attended to is limited. This is related to working memory which is the process behind focused or selective attention. It was found in 1950 that the working memory can hold only about sever chunks of information ( + 2). This suggests that when we have more than 7 – 9 chunks of information in our conscious awareness that in order to add another we must first push one into the subconscious. The most important thing about selective attention and working memory is the way we determine what is let into awareness and what factors influence what is attended to.
One way selective attention can affect nursing practice is through its relationship to procrastination. One study examined selective attention, procrastination and arousal levels in nurses in intensive care and coronary care units. The authors found that selective attention was negatively correlated with procrastination so as one went up the other went down. Selective attention has also been found to be affected by stress. The greater the perceived stress the harder it is to engage in selective attention. Nurses are often in high stress, high demanding situations. This stress could affect their ability to focus their attention selectively on the patients in their individual care or on the patients most in need of help. Some research has shown that intentionally focusing attention on the job, duties, tasks and information specific to a nurse’s workplace can help decrease loss of appropriate selective attention and procrastination. It is also important to note that what may appear to be procrastination may be nurses having a hard time focusing due to a large number of crises occurring simultaneously, being understaffed and feeling overwhelmed in terms of here to focus their attention first. Creating a system of triage utilizing all the nursing staff can help provide way to set priorities that will aid nurses in coping with the stressful environment and their immediate surroundings.
- Heidari, F.,Fariborz, F., and Kiamanesh A. R. Association of selective attention with
procrastination and arousal among intensive care units (ICUs) and coronary care units (CCUs) nursing staff. Euro. J. Exp. Bio., 2013, 3(5): 649-652.
- Hughes, R. G., & Hughes, R. G. (2008). Nurses at the “Sharp End” of patient care.
- Tanner, C. A. (2006). Thinking like a nurse: A research-based model of clinical judgment in
nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 45(6), 204-211.