Jan 30, 2019
Cognitive offloading for critical care retrieval by Stephen Hearns Everyone’s cognitive capacity is limited. It is easy to become overloaded and subsequently for our performance to be impacted. In medicine however, an overloaded cognitive capacity could be the difference between life and death. There is little room for healthcare professionals to be unfocused, yet retrieval medicine is comprised of unpredictability, critical time pressures and fast-paced emergency responses. Let’s face it, there’s never a time where we are more cognitively overloaded than at a multi-casualty incident. Cognitive overload in retrieval medicine results in an unsafe environment and compromised decision making. We need to rely on strategies and processes to reduce our cognitive burden. Eliminating the need to make decisions, allows for a better response to unpredictable scenarios. One strategy is to identify the predictable recurring components and plan for them. Practice implementing the plan, fine tuning the response and ensuring that the whole team is on the same page. It is critical that everyone is well versed and understands the processes and procedures. Furthermore, streamlining communication can have a significant impact on the outcome of high-pressured situations. It can also help us reduce stress and stay in control. Articulate and tell the team when you are overloaded. Encourage your colleagues to do the same when they are overloaded. Delegate and outsource decision making. Teamwork is critical and can make or break an outcome. Rely on writing lists and prioritising actions. It is an excellent way to seek clarity in high-pressured situations. Plan, practice and predict the predictable so that when the unpredictable happens, it has our full attention. Tune in to a DAS SMACC talk by Stephen Hearns on cognitive offloading for critical care retrieval.
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