How Nurses Save Us From Medical Errors

Registered nurses (RNs) have many responsibilities but their main goal is to keep patients safe. A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) prepares nurses with the competencies they need to deliver care to patients in a variety of healthcare settings. Unfortunately, medical errors do happen. Nurses can take certain measures to minimize making mistakes.

What Are the Most Common Medical Errors?

The most common medical errors relate to:

  • Falls
  • Documentation
  • Infections
  • Injuries from equipment
  • Medication

What Factors Lead to Medical Errors?

These factors can contribute to medical errors:

  • Failure to collaborate with members of the healthcare team
  • Miscommunication
  • Not seeking clarification regarding interdisciplinary orders
  • Not asking for or offering assistance

How Can Nurses Prevent Medical Errors?

Nurses learn about techniques and procedures not only as students but also through years of experience. In addition, co-workers, managers and other healthcare professionals may help nurses by sharing advice and guidance. Nurses can take the following measures to reduce the likelihood of errors:

Stop medication mix-ups. Use the six "rights" of medication administration by establishing the following: right patient, right medication, right dose, right time, right route and right documentation.

Protect patients from falls. Nurses need to encourage patients to ask for assistance when getting out of bed. Remove obstacles that can cause patients to trip. Perform rounds to check up on patients. Be aware of medications that can make patients dizzy or drowsy.

Inhibit the spread of infections. Nurses should wash their hands, use an antiseptic for skin preparation and practice sterile technique. Also, nurses need to adhere to guidelines for central line use and removal in order to avert bloodstream infections. Urinary catheters must be appropriately cleaned and not left in for an excessively long time.

Prevent equipment injuries. Nurses need training in how to properly handle and operate equipment. Before using a piece of equipment, nurses should look for signs of damage and confirm that it works, as well as report any defects.

Pay attention to details to decrease errors in documentation. All changes in a patient's condition should be documented in a timely manner. And, there should be accurate documentation about all interventions performed, signs and symptoms of distress, and adverse events. Keep track of the physician's orders and note the time and content of notifications. Nurses should also document when they conducted a patient education session and how well patients and their family members understood the information.

How Does BSN Preparation Aid Nurses in Improving Patient Outcomes?

A BSN prepares nurses with the clinical knowledge and skills they need to provide patient care in today's demanding and evolving healthcare system. Nurses with a BSN are qualified for many nursing positions because of their proficiency in communication, critical thinking, decision-making, leadership and case management.

Studies such as Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes, Educational Levels of Hospital Nurses and Surgical Patient Mortality, An Increase in the Number of Nurses With Baccalaureate Degrees Is Linked to Lower Rates of Postsurgery Mortality and Bachelor's Degree Nurse Graduates Report Better Quality and Safety Educational Preparedness Than Associate Degree Graduates have shown that patients benefit when nurses have a BSN. Study results indicate the following:

  • Surgical patients show lower rates of failure to rescue.
  • There is a reduction in congestive heart failure mortality, decubitus ulcers, failure to rescue, and postoperative deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, along with shorter length of stay in hospital.
  • A higher proportion of nurses with a BSN correlates with a decrease in fatal surgical outcomes.
  • Baccalaureate preparation may close the quality and safety education gaps, which can elevate patient care overall.

The majority of medical errors are preventable. Nurses need to remain professional, vigilant and undistracted when caring for patients. Moreover, healthcare organizations should institute a work environment where nurses feel supported. Patients trust that their nurses will provide care without exposing them to harm, and safeguarding patient health and welfare is the foundation of the nursing practice.

Learn more about the University of New Mexico online RN to BSN program.


EBSCO Health Notes: The Patient Safety Imperative: How to Keep Yourself and Your Patients Safe

Minority Nurse: 10 Strategies for Preventing Medication Errors

Wolters Kluwer: How to Avoid the Top Seven Nursing Errors The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made by New Nurses

AACN: The Impact of Education on Nursing Practice

JAMA: Educational Levels of Hospital Nurses and Surgical Patient Mortality

NCBI: Baccalaureate Education in Nursing and Patient Outcomes

NCBI: Bachelor's Degree Nurse Graduates Report Better Quality and Safety Educational Preparedness than Associate Degree Graduates

NCBI: An Increase in the Number of Nurses With Baccalaureate Degrees Is Linked to Lower Rates of Postsurgery Mortality

Forbes: Beware of These 10 Deadly Tech Hazards in Hospitals

HCPro: Practice the Six Rights of Medication Administration

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