Medical errors are a serious public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. It is a difficult problem as it is challenging to uncover a consistent cause of errors and, even if found, to provide a consistent viable solution that minimises the chances of a recurrent event. By recognising untoward events occur, learning from them, and working toward preventing them, patient safety can be improved.
Part of the solution is to maintain a culture that works toward recognising safety challenges and implementing viable solutions rather than harboring a culture of blame, shame, and punishment. Healthcare organisations need to establish a culture of safety that focuses on system improvement by viewing medical errors as challenges that must be overcome. All individuals on the healthcare team must play a role in making the provision of healthcare safer for patients and healthcare workers.
Thomas L. Rodziewicz and John E. Hipskind explore medical error prevention in their book and conclude that:
- All providers (nurses, pharmacists, and physicians) must accept the inherent issues in their roles as healthcare workers that contribute to error-prone environments.
- Effective communication related to medical errors may foster autonomy and ultimately improve patient safety.
- Error reporting better serves patients and providers by mitigating their effects.
- Even the best clinicians make mistakes, and every practitioner should be encouraged to provide peer support to their colleagues after an adverse event occurs.
Medical errors and near misses should be reported when they are discovered. Healthcare professionals are usually the first to notice a change in a patient's condition that suggests an adverse event. A cultural approach in which personal accountability results in long-term increased reporting reduces errors.