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Nursing errors: The many causes of nursing errors

Nursing errors come in many shapes and forms. A nurse thinking she's doing patients a favor by sneaking them a favorite food could actually hurt their recovery, just like one who misses a patient's medication schedule could harm the individual.

Nurses have many responsibilities when caring for a patient. They're meant to follow a doctor's orders, monitor patient recovery and accurately record when medicine or care is given so the doctor can make adjustments if needed. Nurses help create a path of communication for patients, but they have to listen and interpret the patient's feelings while also performing their duties.

What leads to nursing errors?

Several nursing errors have become prominent in the medical field, including medication errors, infections, equipment injuries and patient falls. The reasons for these errors comes down to a failure to ask for assistance or to communicate. Overwork and understaffing are also factors. Failing to clarify clinical or interdisciplinary orders, having too few nurses on duty and not following evidence-based protocols may also lead to mistakes and perhaps harm to patients.

What can patients do to prevent errors?

Every time you see your nurse, make sure to have him or her check your personal information and medications. It's a good idea to know what your medications and dosages are. Getting to know your nurse or nurses also puts a face to your name, which is good when trying to prevent mistakes.

Another thing you can do is to speak to a nurse or nursing director if you're seeing issues with low staff numbers or are worried about infection. Your nurses should always wash their hands and sterilize equipment before it's used. For example, your arm should be swabbed with alcohol before a new IV is placed, and the IV needle should be sterile before insertion.

Patients shouldn't have to check on their nurses to make sure they're performing well, but it's helpful if they do. Errors are possible, but by being vigilant and persistently checking for them, they can be caught before they cause harm.

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