Nurses make up the largest portion of healthcare workers and are often the last line of defense when it comes to patient safety. Unfortunately, many preventable accidents occur every day in the healthcare industry. There are many causes for these accidents, and most of them are systemic and need to be addressed at the highest level.

Unfortunately, most of these problems won’t be fixed anytime soon. In the meantime, nurses will have to continue doing what they have always done, and save as many people from harm as possible.

Fighting Fatigue

Healthcare workers often work far too many hours. When workers are at the end of a long shift far beyond that of the standard eight-hour workday, they are far more likely to commit errors. Unfortunately, hospitals tend to value continuity of care over the quality of care.

Many studies have shown that people working longer shifts tend to make more mistakes, the longer the shift continues. This is the main reason why most industries have limits on shift lengths. In the critical healthcare industry, however, these limits are nonexistent.

While the quality of care clearly decreases in cases of extended shifts, there is some validity on the other side of the argument as well. Those who push for continuity of care feel that having less turnover in nursing staff for patients leads to fewer things slipping through the cracks during switch offs between shifts.

Undoubtedly, mistakes can be traced to these switch offs as well. However, there are better remedies than extended shifts, which simply lead to more problems. Overlapping shifts would be far more effective in preventing errors. Having healthcare workers’ shifts overlap so that they can get a proper rundown of the situation from the staff going off shift would help greatly.

Another thing that could help is having all notes recorded on a tablet that one staff member passes on to the next. Things won’t get lost in bad handwriting or misplaced paperwork, and the healthcare worker can quickly learn the situation of all patients within their care.

Common Types of Errors

There are many common errors that could be quite harmful if not deadly if not caught in time. A few of the most seen errors are:

  • Medication-related
  • Wrong-site/Wrong-procedure/Wrong-patient
  • Birth Injuries


Medication problems include a plethora of mistakes. These include administering or prescribing the wrong drug or dosage, drugs that are dangerous when used in conjunction with missed medications or medical conditions, and improper explanations to patients of how best to take the medication.

Wrong Site/Wrong Procedure/Wrong Patient

These are often some of the most disturbing and devastating mistakes made in the healthcare industry. Not only are they often hugely tragic, but they are always 100% preventable with a proper plan in place.

An example of a wrong-site error is amputating a patient’s left leg instead of the right leg that was supposed to be amputated. An example of a wrong-procedure error is putting in a pacemaker, rather than performing a heart valve repair. An example of a wrong-patient error would be removing a kidney from the wrong person. All of these are considered never-events, because of the fact that they are all preventable and should never happen.

Unfortunately, these errors do occur far more often than you would imagine.

Birth Injuries

A birth injury can cause a child temporary discomfort, or leave them with a lifelong disability. Source: Some birth injuries are unavoidable and can be chalked up to bad luck. However, many are due to physician error, either through a missed diagnosis or improper procedure.

Double Check Everything

Due to fatigue in doctors, nurses, and other medical staff, it is imperative that nurses double-check everything. Far too often, a simple mistake like adding an extra zero or misplacing a comma can have devastating consequences. By double-checking everything, a nurse can eliminate many costly mistakes.

There are other reasons that preventable mistakes occur as well. Sometimes they are related to handwriting issues, but one of the most common problems has to do with the fact that doctors typically spend very little time with their patients. This leaves nurses like the ones who best know the situation of their patients and are most well equipped to spot errors and prevent them before they become serious.

Nurses are the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry, and these underpaid workers are the best bet that patients have of avoiding a serious life-changing mistake from being made.