Medication Errors: Causes, Stakeholders, Measures

Nursing Issue

Medication errors comprise a major nursing care issue that affects many patients each year. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) defines medication errors as the disruption to the process of “prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration or monitoring” of medication (p. 4). Such definition suggests that medical errors are highly preventable and avoidable. Nevertheless, the number of patient deaths and harms resulting from medication errors in hospitals is significant (James, 2013). Thus, medication errors are an important issue in nursing care that must be addressed by health professionals and authorities to avoid undesired patient outcomes.

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Measures to Support the Issue

Medication errors are a persistent problem at my facility, as there were several known medication error cases that led to poor health outcomes for patients. For instance, post-surgical complications in some patients were associated with incorrectly prescribed medication. However, the scope of the issue is difficult to measure because many medication errors remain unreported (Sears, O’Brien-Pallas, Stevens, & Murphy, 2016). Therefore, there could also be cases where medication errors did not result in immediate complications, and future health issues are not perceived to be the outcome of medical errors.

Research also suggests that medication errors are an important issue for many hospitals. For instance, the WHO (2016) reports that in the United Kingdom, 12% of patients in primary care are affected by medical errors. The value increases with the patients’ age and the complexity of prescription: the WHO (2016) notes that the shares of medication errors in patients aged 75 and older and those who received 5 or more prescribed drugs were 38% and 30%, respectively.

Stakeholders in Improving the Nursing Issue

Improving the stated nursing issue requires consistent measures at the institution level. Thus, hospital leaders, such as heads of departments, are the primary stakeholders in the intervention. Hospital leaders can affect the project by initiating prescription review schemes or providing additional training to nurses.

Nurses are also among the stakeholders that have a significant effect on the issue. Lack of training and evidence-based knowledge is an important factor that can affect nurses’ decisions and actions associated with medication errors (WHO, 2016). Thus, it is important that both the hospital’s leaders and nurses are involved in improving the issue of medication errors.

Causes of the Nursing Issue

As explained by the WHO (2016), there are several key factors associated with medication errors. Factors associated with health care professionals, such as lack of training and experience, fatigue, burnout, and inadequate communication, seem to be among the main causes of medication errors (WHO, 2016). Indeed, training and experience are associated with increased knowledge of medical conditions and the treatment process, which could help nurses in avoiding medication errors. Inadequate communication and personal issues, such as stress or fatigue, on the other hand, could result in accidental errors.

Another significant cause of medication errors is the institution’s work environment. The WHO (2016) states that working conditions, such as workload, distractions, and the lack of resources, can influence the incidence of medical errors in particular healthcare institutions. These factors impact the nurse’s ability to focus on providing the patient with the necessary treatment and care, which is why they are important in predicting medication errors.

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Lastly, computerized systems can also become a barrier to high-quality treatment. For example, they might lack certain functions, such as repeating the previous prescription, or allow for human error due to complicated design or provide incomplete patient records (WHO, 2016). Overall, all of the above factors cause medical errors in health institutions and thus have to be addressed by health professionals.


James, J. T. (2013). A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. Journal of Patient Safety, 9(3), 122-128.

Sears, K., O’Brien-Pallas, L., Stevens, B., & Murphy, G. T. (2016). The relationship between nursing experience and education and the occurrence of reported pediatric medication administration errors. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 31(4), 283-290.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2016). Medication errors. Web.

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