Common Medical Errors and Ways to Reduce them

Nurses are the heart and soul of a hospital. They are health educators, patient advocates, and healthcare providers. Nurses play a key role in giving patient-centered care. The Institute of Medicine defines patient centered care as providing care that is respectful and responsive to a patient preferences and needs. Providing patient centered care also ensures that clinical decisions are made with respect to a patient’s values. Although nurses and the profession of nursing itself is essential to the function of a hospital, nurses are not always perfect. Over the last century, nursing errors, has led to an increase of medical errors in hospital settings. Medical errors include hospital acquired infections and deaths. An analysis of preventable medical errors reveal many challenges facing nurses: inadequate staffing, miscommunication, and unsafe working conditions. In order to reduce these medical errors, hospitals need to make sure that they have an adequate nursing staff, lots of communication, and updated policies that promote patient safety.

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Inadequate Staffing

Over the last decade, multiple studies have found a direct correlation between an inadequate nursing staff and patient dissatisfaction, falls, medical errors, and patient deaths. Among nurses, inadequate staffing can be described as having a high patient-to-nurse ratio, which makes it difficult for a nurse to provide competent care . A 2002 study called Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction by Linda Aiken, revealed that for every additional patient a nurse had to care for, patients were at a seven percent greater risk of dying within 30 days of admission.

Although many believe that the easiest way to solve this problem is to hire more nurses, it is not that simple. For over a decade, there has been a high demand of nurses world-wide. With an increasing elderly population and an aging workforce, the demand of nurses exceeds the amount of nurses available. Since people are living longer, the demand for healthcare and nurses is also increasing. With an aging workforce, it is estimated that approximately one-third of nurses might retire in the next 10 to 15 years, which leads to having fewer nursing resources in educational settings. According to the World Health Statistics Report, there are approximately 3.9 million nurses and midwives in the United States and approximately 1.1 million are needed to prevent further shortage.


A survey called Missed Nursing Care Survey was done by Beatrice J. Kalish, PhD, that examined what and why nursing care was missed. 459 nurses were surveyed and results revealed that 38% of missed nursing care was due to problems with communication. A further analysis revealed that there were multiple factors that contributed to communication problems. Tension and communication breakdowns with the medical staff, other ancillary/support departments, and within the nursing staff were the biggest factors that contributed to communication problems. Another apparent factor was the high number of inexperienced staff and inadequate hand-offs from previous shifts. A nurse’s main priority is to deliver high quality and patient centered care. Nursing ego’s and tension must be eliminated in the work setting in order to properly care for patients. Miscommunication has led to medical error, nursing negligence, and malpractice lawsuits. As a nurse, it is difficult to go against a doctor’s order, especially if there is a hierarchy system within the hospital. Some doctors believe that they are superior to nurses and that their word is law. Because of this, many nurses have a fear of going against a doctor due to a fear of being ridiculed. 

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Common Medical Errors and Ways to Reduce Them. (2022, Sep 06). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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