1. Dykes, Patricia C. RN, DNSc
  2. Rothschild, Jeffrey M. MD, MPH
  3. Hurley, Ann C. RN, DNSc, FAAN


Objective: The frequency and types of medical errors are well documented, but less is known about potential errors that were intercepted by nurses. We studied the type, frequency, and potential harm of recovered medical errors reported by critical care registered nurses (CCRNs) during the previous year.


Background: Nurses are known to protect patients from harm. Several studies on medical errors found that there would have been more medical errors reaching the patient had not potential errors been caught earlier by nurses.


Methods: The Recovered Medical Error Inventory, a 25-item empirically derived and internally consistent ([alpha] =.90) list of medical errors, was posted on the Internet. Participants were recruited via e-mail and healthcare-related listservs using a nonprobability snowball sampling technique. Investigators e-mailed contacts working in hospitals or who managed healthcare-related listservs and asked the contacts to pass the link on to others with contacts in acute care settings.


Results: During 1 year, 345 CCRNs reported that they recovered 18,578 medical errors, of which they rated 4,183 as potentially lethal.


Conclusion: Surveillance, clinical judgment, and interventions by CCRNs to identify, interrupt, and correct medical errors protected seriously ill patients from harm.