• intravenous;
  • medication errors;
  • nurses;
  • nursing;
  • observation errors

Aim.  To verify the frequency of errors in the preparation and administration of intravenous medication in three Brazilian hospitals in the State of Bahia.

Background.  The administration of intravenous medications constitutes a central activity in Brazilian nursing. Errors in performing this activity may result in irreparable damage to patients and may compromise the quality of care.

Design.  Cross-sectional study, conducted in three hospitals in the State of Bahia, Brazil.

Methods.  Direct observation of the nursing staff (nurse technicians, auxiliary nurses and nurse attendants), preparing and administering intravenous medication.

Results.  When preparing medication, wrong patient error did not occur in any of the three hospitals, whereas omission dose was the most frequent error in all study sites. When administering medication, the most frequent errors in the three hospitals were wrong dose and omission dose.

Conclusions.  The rates of error found are considered low compared with similar studies. The most frequent types of errors were wrong dose and omission dose. The hospitals studied showed different results with the smallest rates of errors occurring in hospital 1 that presented the best working conditions.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Studies such as this one have the potential to improve the quality of care.