Oncology nurses' perceptions about involving patients in the prevention of chemotherapy administration errors

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2010 Mar;37(2):E84-91. doi: 10.1188/10.ONF.E84-E91.


Purpose/objectives: To explore oncology nurses' perceptions and experiences with patient involvement in chemotherapy error prevention.

Design: Qualitative descriptive study.

Setting: In- and outpatient oncology units of a community hospital in Switzerland.

Sample: 11 actively practicing oncology nurses working in an ambulatory infusion unit or on wards.

Methods: Oncology nurses participated in two focus groups on two occasions. Participants discussed their personal experiences with patients intervening to intercept errors, attitudes toward patient involvement in error prevention, and changes in relationships with patients. A content-analysis framework was applied to the transcripts and analytical categories were generated.

Main research variables: Perceptions about patient involvement in error prevention.

Findings: Participants shared affirmative attitudes and overwhelmingly reported positive experiences with engaging patients in safety behaviors, although engaging patients was described as a challenge. Nurses intuitively chose among a set of strategies and patterns of language to engage patients and switch between participative and authoritative models of education. Patient involvement in error prevention was perceived to be compatible with trustful relationships. Efforts to get patients involved have the potential for frustration if preventable errors reach patients. Considerable differences exist among organizational barriers encountered by nurses.

Conclusions: Nurses acknowledged the diverse needs of patients and deliberately used different strategies to involve patients in safety. Patient participation in safety is perceived as a complex learning process that requires cultural change.

Implications for nursing: Oncology nurses perceive patient education in safety as a core element of their professional role and are receptive to advancing their expertise in this area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Errors* / nursing
  • Medication Errors* / prevention & control
  • Medication Errors* / psychology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / nursing*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology
  • Oncology Nursing / methods*
  • Oncology Nursing / standards
  • Patient Participation*


  • Antineoplastic Agents