Understanding the nature of errors in nursing: using a model to analyse critical incident reports of errors which had resulted in an adverse or potentially adverse event
Human errors are common in clinical practice, but they are under-reported. As a result, very little is known of the types, antecedents and consequences of errors in nursing practice. This limits the potential to learn from errors and to make improvement in the quality and safety of nursing care. The aim of this study was to use an Organizational Accident Model to analyse critical incidents of errors in nursing. Twenty registered nurses were invited to produce a critical incident report of an error (which had led to an adverse event or potentially could have led to an adverse event) they had made in their professional practice and to write down their responses to the error using a structured format. Using Reason’s Organizational Accident Model, supplemental information was then collected from five of the participants by means of an individual in-depth interview to explore further issues relating to the incidents they had reported. The detailed analysis of one of the incidents is discussed in this paper, demonstrating the effectiveness of this approach in providing insight into the chain of events which may lead to an adverse event. The case study approach using critical incidents of clinical errors was shown to provide relevant information regarding the interaction of organizational factors, local circumstances and active failures (errors) in producing an adverse or potentially adverse event. It is suggested that more use should be made of this approach to understand how errors are made in practice and to take appropriate preventative measures.