The critical need for nursing education to address the diagnostic process

Nurs Outlook. May-Jun 2021;69(3):362-369. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2020.12.005. Epub 2021 Jan 14.


Diagnostic errors are among the most common medical errors and the deadliest. The National Academy of Medicine recently concluded that diagnostic errors represent an urgent national concern. Their first recommendation to address this issue called for promoting the key role of the nurse in the diagnostic process. Registered nurses across clinical settings significantly contribute to the medical diagnostic process, though their role in diagnosis has historically gone unacknowledged. In this paper, we review the history and current state of diagnostic education in pre-licensure registered nurse preparation, introduce interprofessional individual- and team-based competencies to improve diagnostic safety, and discuss the next steps for nursing education. Nurses educated and empowered to fully participate in the diagnostic process are essential for achieving better, safer patient outcomes.

Keywords: Diagnostic error; Education; Nursing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Curriculum*
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control*
  • Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures / standards*
  • Education, Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • United States