Strategies used by nurses to recover medical errors in an academic emergency department setting

Appl Nurs Res. 2006 May;19(2):70-7. doi: 10.1016/j.apnr.2005.05.006.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to gain insight into how nurses recover medical errors in the emergency department (ED) setting.

Methods: The research method was of exploratory descriptive design with qualitative analysis. Subjects who signed the informed consent participated in one of four focus groups centering on nurse's role in recovering errors. Questions were asked during the focus groups to elicit information regarding nurse's role in the three phases of error recovery, namely, identifying, interrupting, and correcting the error.

Results: Five themes emerged to describe methods used by nurses to identify errors in the ED setting. These themes included: surveillance, anticipation, double checking, awareness of the "big picture," and experiential "knowing." Five themes emerged as methods used to interrupt errors: patient advocacy, offer of assistance, clarification, verbal interruption, and creation of delay. The themes for correcting an error were assembling the team and involving leadership.

Conclusion: The results of this study provide preliminary evidence of the strategies used by ED nurses in the recovery of medical error. Further research is needed to generalize these findings to other ED settings. Knowledge of effective recovery strategies can ultimately be used to develop interventions for reducing medical error and improving patient safety.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Communication
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Emergency Nursing / education
  • Emergency Nursing / organization & administration
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Knowledge
  • Leadership
  • Medical Errors / nursing
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Models, Nursing
  • Nurse's Role / psychology*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / organization & administration
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Management / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration
  • Verbal Behavior