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Researchers studying medical errors found that in more than two-thirds (69%) of cases, nurses recognized, interrupted, and corrected an error before it reached the patient. Conducted in a 10-bed coronary care unit, the study spanned a year and involved 142 medical errors, which were recovered via incident reports and direct observation.


In the 31% of errors that reached patients, nurses intervened to prevent patient harm in 13% of cases. In the remaining 18% of cases, nurse intervention limited the severity of patient harm. Most errors (73%) involved drugs-commonly anticoagulants, electrolyte solutions, and vasopressors.


Researchers say their findings demonstrate the value of nurses' attention to medication and patient safety. "Recovery from medical error by nurses during patient care is often considered routine and is both underrecognized and underappreciated by nonnursing staff," said lead researcher Jeffrey Rothschild, MD, MPH. "It's time for that to change."

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Recovery from medical errors: The critical care nursing safety net, Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, JM Rothschild, et al., February 2006.