Aim: This paper is a report of a study to describe the experiences of nurses who had committed serious medication errors, the meaning these experiences carry, and what kind of help and support they received after committing their error.
Background: Medication administration is an important nursing task. Work overload, combined with increased numbers and dosages of medication prescribed, puts nurses at risk of making serious errors. A drug error has the potential for disastrous consequences for patients. What is sometimes disregarded is the effect on the nurse involved. The majority of research on nurses and medication errors is framed within biomedicine, law and management.
Methods: An explorative, descriptive design was adopted and 10 in-depth interviews were conducted in 2003 with nurses who had committed a medication error. The text was analysed using a phenomenological method.
Findings: Serious medication errors can have a great impact on nurses, both personally and professionally. Reactions from significant others were central to the final outcome for nurses who made drug errors. They wanted to share their experiences, but this required confidence and trust. Nurses were generally willing to accept responsibility for their errors.
Conclusion: Strategies should be developed so that errors can be managed in a constructive manner, which includes exploring underlying causes and the counselling and support needs of the nurses involved.