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Devastatingly Human: An Analysis of Registered Nurses’ Medication Error Accounts

Linda A. Treiber, Kennesaw State University
Jackie H. Jones, Kennesaw State University

Abstract

Despite many safeguards, nurses make the majority of medication administration errors. The purpose of our research was to investigate the perceived causes for such errors and to better understand how nurses deal with them. We performed an interpretive analysis of 158 accounts by nurses who made self-identified medication errors. We found common themes among these accounts. First, although nurses admitted responsibility for errors, they simultaneously identified a variety of external contributing factors. Second, nurses’ accounts were often framed in terms of "being new," with the underlying background expectancy of inexperience. Third, emotionally devastating visceral responses to errors were common and often incongruent with error severity. Fourth, nurses had to deal with fear. Fifth, nurses voiced frustrations with technologies and regulations. Sixth, embedded within many of the accounts was a "lessons learned" theme, through which nurses developed "personal rules" as a result of an error. We conclude with suggestions for additional research.

Suggested Citation

Linda A. Treiber and Jackie H. Jones. "Devastatingly Human: An Analysis of Registered Nurses’ Medication Error Accounts" Qualitative Health Research 20.10 (2010): 1327-1342.