The Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) reports “To Err is Human” and “Crossing the Chasm” made explicit 3 previously unappreciated realities: (1) Medical errors are common and result in serious, preventable adverse events; (2) The majority of medical errors are the result of system versus human failures; and (3) It would be impossible for any system to prevent all errors. With these realities, the role of the nurse in the “near miss” process and as the final safety net for the patient is of paramount importance. The nurse’s role in patient safety is described from both a systems perspective and a human factors perspective.

Critical care nurses use specific strategies to identify, interrupt, and correct medical errors. Strategies to identify errors include knowing the patient, knowing the plan of care, double-checking, and surveillance. Nursing strategies to interrupt errors include offering...

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