Nurses' medication errors

J Adv Nurs. 1994 Mar;19(3):519-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1994.tb01116.x.


This paper reports on a qualitative study of nurses' experiences with medication errors. Using discourse analysis within a framework of an interpretive research design, the phenomenon of a not too uncommon occurrence in nursing practice was examined. Insight into nurses' involvement with medication errors was gained from interviews, group discussions and self-reports. Documents of disciplinary proceedings, where the Professional Conduct Committee of the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting has dealt with incidents of medication errors, supplemented the data. Decisions made in situations of medication errors have moral implications at personal, institutional, and professional levels. The moral courage that is needed to learn from mistakes can be enhanced through honest dealings with the situation. Where the attention is shifted from the person involved onto the problem at hand, fair judgement may be advanced and the fear of owning up to a mistake be diminished. Only when reflected upon, can personal experience merge into the stream of development and progress. This study contributes to such reflection. Three key issues are discussed in-depth as they evolved during analysis of the data: These issues deal with identification and change; with guilt and shame and the reconciliation with human precariousness; and with teaching and learning. The manner in which discourse analysis was used here represents an innovative attempt to advance qualitative methodology in nursing research.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Decision Making, Organizational
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing
  • Employee Discipline / methods
  • Ethics, Nursing
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors / psychology*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Power, Psychological
  • Role
  • Shame
  • Social Perception
  • Students, Nursing / psychology
  • Teaching