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 assistance, clarifying, and verbally interrupting. Nurses correct errors by persevering, being physically present, reviewing/confirming the plan of care, or involving another nurse or physician. Each of these strategies has implications for education, practice, and research. Surveillance is a key nursing strategy for identifying medical errors and reducing adverse events. Eye-tracking technology is a novel approach for evaluating the surveillance process during common, high-risk processes such as blood transfusion and medication administration. Eye tracking has also been used to examine the impact of interruptions to care caused by bedside alarms as well as by other health care personnel. Findings from this safety-related eye-tracking research provide new insight into effective bedside surveillance and interruption management strategies.

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