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Keywords:

  • Psychology;
  • latent failures;
  • medication errors;
  • patient safety;
  • ward climate

Objectives

The primary aim of this article was to identify the latent failures that are perceived to underpin medication errors.

Study Setting

The study was conducted within three medical wards in a hospital in the United Kingdom.

Study Design

The study employed a cross-sectional qualitative design.

Data Collection Methods

Interviews were conducted with 12 nurses and eight managers. Interviews were transcribed and subject to thematic content analysis. A two-step inter-rater comparison tested the reliability of the themes.

Principal Findings

Ten latent failures were identified based on the analysis of the interviews. These were ward climate, local working environment, workload, human resources, team communication, routine procedures, bed management, written policies and procedures, supervision and leadership, and training. The discussion focuses on ward climate, the most prevalent theme, which is conceptualized here as interacting with failures in the nine other organizational structures and processes.

Conclusions

This study is the first of its kind to identify the latent failures perceived to underpin medication errors in a systematic way. The findings can be used as a platform for researchers to test the impact of organization-level patient safety interventions and to design proactive error management tools and incident reporting systems in hospitals.