Top 7 Nursing Errors — and How to Avoid Them


nursing errors It’s true. Even nurses make mistakes sometimes. Studies have shown that errors, accidents, injuries, and infections are to blame for at least 180,000 patients killed every year in American hospitals.¹ No matter the profession, it is critically important to follow rules and guidelines that are aimed at decreasing the number of  preventable fatalities. We all make mistakes, but what errors do nurses make the most and how can they be avoided?


The Top 7 Nursing Errors²

  1. Failure to collaborate with other health care team members
  2. Failure to clarify interdisciplinary orders
  3. Failure to ask for and offer assistance
  4. Failure to utilize evidence-based performance guidelines or bundles
  5. Failure to communicate information to patients and families
  6. Failure to limit overtime
  7. Failure to adequately staff patient care units with enough nurses to allow them to safely provide care

Take a look at some scenarios  (and solutions) that may be caused by these types of nursing errors:²

  • Patient Falls — One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s important to keep in mind that falls can be caused by a lot of different things, such as vertigo, the flu, multiple sclerosis, and anesthetic medications. To keep falls from happening, assess the patient’s gait when out of bed and offer assistance if necessary. Also, consider protective measures such as nonslip socks and bed alarms to further decrease the risk of falling.
  • Infections — The simplest measure a nurse can take in preventing infections is to ensure basic hand hygiene. Take your time! Other than that,  measures include using chlorhexidine for skin preparation and appropriate cleaning of urinary catheters. Make sure that you’ve taken thorough precautions in cleaning yourself, your patient, or your environment.
  • Medication Errors — Distractions are the primary cause of medication errors. In the United States alone, medication errors kill one person every day (National Medication Errors Reporting Program). Collaborate with the pharmacy to ensure look-alike or sound-alike medications are not stored next to each other. Bar coding medication scanning systems can also help track and dispense medications more accurately.
  • Documenting Errors — Though it may seem that there is never enough time to do it all, you should never compromise accurately documenting all major events and changes in patient condition when or soon after they occur. Double check! Make sure that all documentation is on the right patient and that he or she can comprehend the information provided.
  • Equipment Injury — New equipment make their way through hospital doors every day. To evade equipment injury, request training on equipment you don’t know how to use. Report any defects or damages you find on the equipment in a timely manner. If an injury occurs, thoroughly document it and alert the risk management department.

So what should you do if you make a mistake? The most important things you can do are accept responsibility and disclose your errors . You can do so voluntarily and confidentially by reporting any event that may adversely affect patients to your facility’s risk management department.

Comment below if you have other tips on how to avoid nursing errors!





2 comments on “Top 7 Nursing Errors — and How to Avoid Them”

  1. Interesting article Tera, however it appears you have made an error yourself! You listed incidents that MIGHT lead to an error, the nursing errors are listed below.

    The incidents you list as an “error” could be applied to any profession. Such as, 1. The writer failed to “collaborate with other peers”
    2. The writer failed to “clarify the information”
    3. The writer failed to “ask for professional assistance”
    4. The writer failed to research the subject (finding evidence-based facts).
    5. The writer failed to communicate information prior to publishing (nurses communicate w family and patients – writers communicate w an audience).
    Items 6 & 7 are specific to any organization that must staff the work place, and could be applied to a warehouse, or even police or fire departments! Overtime is a taboo, and if people call out sick, they have to work with what they have.

    The point is, yes, errors do occur, however you misread your source. It also looks like you just copied (plagiarism) from the article with out quoting the author. Replacing numbers for bullets does not make it your own.

    Also remember, errors can occur for other reasons. As an example, the nurse can educate and communicate with family and patients not to eat before a procedure. If they do and fail to provide that information, serious injury could occur during a procedure. That is a medical error, caused by lack of communication.

    Good luck, and if you don’t understand something… Ask! Do you know what evidence-based means?


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