Nursing-related medication errors: A review of factors that facilitate and hinder error reporting, and recommendations for improvement

Jennifer Mari Elliot, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Medication errors, one of the most frequent types of medical errors, are a common cause of patient harm in hospital systems today. Nurses at the bedside are in a position to encounter many of these errors since they are there at the start of the process (ordering/prescribing) and the end of the process (administration). One of the recommendations from the IOM (Institute of Medicine) report, "To Err is Human," was for organizations to identify and learn from medical errors through event reporting systems. While many organizations have reporting systems in place, research studies report a significant amount of underreporting by nurses. A systematic review of the literature was performed to identify contributing factors related to the reporting and not reporting of medication errors by nurses at the bedside. Articles included in the literature review were primary or secondary studies, dated January 1, 2000 – July 2009, related to nursing medication error reporting. All 634 articles were reviewed with an algorithm developed to standardize the review process and help filter out those that did not meet the study criteria. In addition, 142 article bibliographies were reviewed to find additional studies that were not found in the original literature search. After reviewing the 634 articles and the additional 108 articles discovered in the bibliography review, 41 articles met the study criteria and were used in the systematic literature review results. Fear of punitive reactions to medication errors was a frequent barrier to error reporting. Nurses fear reactions from their leadership, peers, patients and their families, nursing boards, and the media. Anonymous reporting systems and departments/organizations with a strong safety culture in place helped to encourage the reporting of medication errors by nursing staff. Many of the studies included in this literature review do not allow results that can be generalized. The majority of them took place in single institutions/organizations with limited sample sizes. Stronger studies with larger sample sizes need to be performed, utilizing data collection methods that have been validated, to determine stronger correlations between safety cultures and nurse error reporting.

Subject Area

Public Health Education|Nursing|Public health

Recommended Citation

Elliot, Jennifer Mari, "Nursing-related medication errors: A review of factors that facilitate and hinder error reporting, and recommendations for improvement" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474708.