Novice nurses’ attention to task-relevant stimuli during practice

James Whyte, David W. Eccles, Maria D. Whyte


Objective: Nurses engaged in practice make split-second decisions based on stimuli perceived in the clinical environment. There has been limited research in nursing on stimuli perception and limited research aimed specifically at directly measuring nurses’ gaze and the subsequent quality of their decisions.

Methods: This study used an observational descriptive design to examine nurses’ gaze behaviors as they cared for a simulated patient in three different clinical scenarios. Participants were fitted with eye-tracking goggles that facilitated the recording on video of the focal point of their gaze. The recorded videos were coded to quantify the participants’ areas of focus. For each scenario, visual focus data were compared between participants who successfully resolved the scenarios and those who did not. 

Results: The results revealed statistically significant differences in areas of focus between successful and unsuccessful participants. While successful participants focused on the patient, unsuccessful participants focused on task-irrelevant environmental cues.

Conclusions: The results demonstrate a need for nurse educators to focus their students on the patient, while guiding them to avoid becoming mired in task irrelevant foci and actions.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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