Factors influencing a nurse's decision to question medication administration in a neonatal clinical care unit: L Aydon et al.

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Aims and objectives

The aim of this study was to identify factors that influence nurse's decisions to question concerning aspects of medication administration within the context of a neonatal clinical care unit.


Medication error in the neonatal setting can be high with this particularly vulnerable population. As the care giver responsible for medication administration, nurses are deemed accountable for most errors. However, they are recognised as the forefront of prevention. Minimal evidence is available around reasoning, decision making and questioning around medication administration. Therefore, this study focuses upon addressing the gap in knowledge around what nurses believe influences their decision to question.


A critical incident design was employed where nurses were asked to describe clinical incidents around their decision to question a medication issue. Nurses were recruited from a neonatal clinical care unit and participated in an individual digitally recorded interview.


One hundred and three nurses participated between December 2013–August 2014. Use of the constant comparative method revealed commonalities within transcripts. Thirty-six categories were grouped into three major themes: ‘Working environment’, ‘Doing the right thing’ and ‘Knowledge about medications’.


Findings highlight factors that influence nurses’ decision to question issues around medication administration. Nurses feel it is their responsibility to do the right thing and speak up for their vulnerable patients to enhance patient safety. Negative dimensions within the themes will inform planning of educational strategies to improve patient safety, whereas positive dimensions must be reinforced within the multidisciplinary team.

Relevance to clinical practice

The working environment must support nurses to question and ultimately provide safe patient care. Clear and up to date policies, formal and informal education, role modelling by senior nurses, effective use of communication skills and a team approach can facilitate nurses to appropriately question aspects around medication administration.

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