Accountable Healthcare - 6 of the Most Common Errors in Nursing – and How to Avoid Them
Skip to Main Content Skip to Menu Skip to Footer
February 26, 2019

6 of the Most Common Errors in Nursing – and How to Avoid Them

Nurses can often be rushed on their shifts as they care for a large number of patients and, unfortunately, errors sometimes occur. Many can be avoided by knowing the proper procedures and taking time to follow them, as difficult as that may be at times.

Mary Caldwell shares how to avoid six of the most common errors in nursing:

Patient Falls:

Elderly or frail patients aren't the only patients who are at risk for falling. Any patient can fall due to medical conditions, medication or procedures.

Nurses can help their patients avoid these falls by taking several preventative measures. Check your patients' room, bathroom and equipment to make sure there are no obstacles. You can also verify and continue to monitor your patients' activity orders and compare the orders to your patients' abilities. Hourly rounding to check on patients and their needs can also help reduce falls, according to research on rounding in 14 hospitals.


To avoid infections, nurses should minimize patients' risk by following proper protocols.

Hand hygiene is an important first step in preventing infections and you should always use chlorhexidine for skin preparation, practice sterile technique and follow guidelines for central line use and removal. Long-term catheter use should be avoided unless necessary, and they should be cleaned and removed in a timely manner. Other ways to reduce infections include having specific checklists to follow, such as one to prevent central line bloodstream infections and another to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia. These checklists are even more effective when combined with a Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program (CUSP) to help minimize hazards.

Medication Errors:

Medication errors can happen at any step along the way, from prescribing to administration. Administration errors are estimated to make up 26 to 32 percent of medication errors and administering medication is a task that's usually performed by nurses.

Follow the "five rights" before administering medication: right patient, right drug, right dosage, right time and right route. While it can be tempting sometimes to bypass safety procedures, workarounds should be avoided or corrected.

Documentation Mistakes:

As busy as nurses are, it's hard to document major events and changes in patient condition during your shift.

Take the time to accurately document any interventions performed and as patient conditions warrant, Wolters Kluwer recommends. If an adverse event occurs, it should be immediately reported to your supervisor. You should also note any signs and symptoms as well as all healthcare provider notifications. Any information you give patients and/or their caregivers should be documented. Finally, make sure that every piece of documentation refers to the correct patient.

Improper Body Mechanics:

New nurses in particular can be determined to try to do everything themselves, according to Nurse Buff, which puts them - and their patients - at risk.

It's important to know the correct way to transfer, carry and move patients and to ask for help if you need it. Take your time and remember to lift with your legs instead of with your back. Taking a little extra time is well worth keeping your patients (and yourself) safe.

Equipment-Related Injuries:

Since equipment can frequently change, nurses need to be trained so they know how to properly and safely use their facility's equipment.

Equipment should be used only as intended and it should be inspected regularly to make sure it's in good, safe operating condition. Any issues should be reported to your supervisor. Any injury related to equipment should be properly documented, whether it's you, other staff members or a patient who was hurt.