Factors associated with medication administration errors and why nurses fail to report them

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Abstract

Background

Patient safety is a significant challenge facing healthcare systems. The administration of medication is pivotal to patient safety, and errors in drug administration are associated with mortality and morbidity. In this study, we assessed the factors contributing to the occurrence and reporting of medication errors from the nurse's perspective.

Methods

In this descriptive cross-sectional study, we distributed a validated questionnaire to 367 nurses at a large public hospital and obtained a response rate of 73.4%. The questionnaire comprised 65 questions, including 29 on the causes of medication errors, 16 on the reasons why medication errors are not reported and 20 that estimated the percentages of the different medication errors actually reported. Informed consent was obtained from all participants, and the anonymity and confidentiality of participants’ information were preserved throughout the process. This study received institutional review board approval. Descriptive statistics were used for data analysis.

Results

The main factors associated with medication errors by nurses were related to medication packaging, nurse–physician communication, pharmacy processes, nurse staffing and transcribing issues. The main barriers to the reporting of errors by nurses were related to the administrative response, fear of reporting and disagreements regarding the definitions of errors.

Conclusion

Medication errors by nurses are related to medication packaging, poor communication, unclear medication orders, workload and staff rotation. To prevent medication errors, teamwork must be improved. All healthcare settings should emphasise awareness of the culture of safety, provide support and guidance to nurses and improve communication skills. We also recommend the use of integrated health informatics, including computerised drug administration systems. The limitations of this study include the potential for nonresponse bias associated with the sampling method. Further research is required to explore the complex and multidimensional causes of medication errors and review the responses of nurses regarding the errors reported.

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