There has been considerable focus on reducing errors in the hospital setting over the last two centuries, but errors continue to occur at an alarming rate. Two articles are discussed that explore nursing errors. The purpose of these studies was to identify human factors that cause nursing errors and to identify the constructs of likelihood to cause error, ability to intervene, importance, and commonness relating to human factors causing errors. The first paper describes a Delphi Study which examined the likely causes of nursing error using an expert group (n=25) of Quality Assurance, Risk Management, Patient Safety, and staff nurses. The second paper describes a study in which a broader panel of hospital-based nurses (n=393) took an online survey evaluating likelihood to cause errors, intervenability, importance, and commonness. Factor analysis was done to determine general themes related to human factors likely to cause errors and how they related to the specific demographic findings of shift worked, education level, and having previously made a nursing error. The Delphi survey, through two iterations, identified 24 causes of nursing errors. The need for further study in the area of human factors contributing to nursing errors was recognized. The survey of hospital-based registered nurses was used to evaluate these factors in view of likelihood to cause error, intervenability, importance, and commonness. The top ten factors were identified for each. Factor analysis of data resulting from the Likelihood to Cause Errors Scale identified four themes: loss of focus, unhealthy environment, interpersonal deficits, and being overwhelmed.

Date of publication

Spring 5-19-2014

Document Type




Persistent identifier


Included in

Nursing Commons