Clinicians Consistently Exceed a Typical Person’s Short-Term Memory During Preoperative Teaching

Sandberg EH, Sharma R, Wiklund R, Sandberg WS. In the light of short-term memory capacity for information such as preoperative instruction being limited to roughly seven “chunks” of information for a short period of time the authors set out to study information information-giving practices of anesthesiologists and nurse practitioners during preoperative teaching. Anesthesiologists and nurse practitioners vastly exceeded patients’ short-term memory capacity. Nurse practitioners gave significantly more information to patients than did physicians. This higher level of information-giving was not influenced by the question-asking behaviors of the patients. Nurse practitioners and physicians used similar numbers of medical terms, and memory-supporting reinforcements. Given the known limits of short-term memory, clinicians would be well advised to carefully consider their patterns of information-giving and their use of memory-reinforcing strategies for critical information. Anesthesia and Analgesia 2008; 107:972-978 Link to Abstract

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