Medication errors in hospitals: A literature review of disruptions to nursing practice during medication administration

Carolyn Hayes, Debra Jackson, Patricia M. Davidson, Tamara Power

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Aims and objectives: The purpose of this review was to explore what is known about interruptions and distractions on medication administration in the context of undergraduate nurse education. Background: Incidents and errors during the process of medication administration continue to be a substantial patient safety issue in health care settings internationally. Interruptions to the medication administration process have been identified as a leading cause of medication error. Literature recognises that some interruptions are unavoidable therefore in an effort to reduce errors, it is essential understand how undergraduate nurses learn to manage interruptions to the medication administration process. Design: Systematic, critical literature review. Methods: Utilising the electronic databases, of Medline, Scopus, PubMed and CINAHL, and recognised quality assessment guidelines, 19 articles met the inclusion criteria. Search terms included: nurses, medication incidents or errors, interruptions, disruption, distractions and multitasking. Results: Researchers have responded to the impact of interruptions and distractions on the medication administration by attempting to eliminate them. Despite the introduction of quality improvements, little is known about how nurses manage interruptions and distractions during medication administration or how they learn to do so. A significant gap in the literature exists in relation to innovative sustainable strategies that assist undergraduate nurses to learn how to safely and confidently manage interruptions in the clinical environment. Conclusions: Study findings highlight the need for further exploration into the way nurses learn to manage interruptions and distractions during medication administration. This is essential given the critical relationship between interruptions and medication error rates. Relevance to clinical practice: Better preparing nurses to safely fulfil the task of medication administration in the clinical environment, with increased confidence in the face of interruptions, could lead to a reduction in errors and concomitant improvements to patient safety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3063-3076
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of clinical nursing
Issue number21-22
StatePublished - Nov 2015


  • Disruption
  • Distractions
  • Interruptions
  • Medication errors
  • Multitasking
  • Nurses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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