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Nurses’ Practice Environments, Error Interception Practices, and Inpatient Medication Errors


Dr. Linda Flynn, Rutgers College of Nursing, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, 180 University Avenue, Room #338, Newark, New Jersey 07102. E-mail:


Purpose: Medication errors remain a threat to patient safety. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the relationships among characteristics of the nursing practice environment, nurse staffing levels, nurses’ error interception practices, and rates of nonintercepted medication errors in acute care hospitals.

Design: This study, using a nonexperimental design, was conducted in a sample of 82 medical-surgical units recruited from 14 U.S. acute care hospitals. Registered nurses (RNs) on the 82 units were surveyed, producing a sample of 686 staff nurses.

Methods: Data collected for the 8-month study period included the number of medication errors per 1,000 patient days and the number of RN hours per patient day. Nurse survey data included the Practice Environment Scale of the Nursing Work Index as a measure of environmental characteristics; a metric of nurses’ interception practices was developed for the study. All survey measures were aggregated to the unit level prior to analysis with hierarchical linear modeling.

Findings: A supportive practice environment was positively associated with error interception practices among nurses in the sample of medical-surgical units. Importantly, nurses’ interception practices were inversely associated with medication error rates.

Conclusions: A supportive practice environment enhances nurses’ error interception practices. These interception practices play a role in reducing medication errors.

Clinical Relevance: When supported by their practice environments, nurses employ practices that can assist in interrupting medication errors before they reach the patients.