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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Health Services Research 1/2019

Medication errors and drug knowledge gaps among critical-care nurses: a mixed multi-method study

BMC Health Services Research > Ausgabe 1/2019
Juan Escrivá Gracia, Ricardo Brage Serrano, Julio Fernández Garrido
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12913-019-4481-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Medication errors are a serious and complex problem in clinical practice, especially in intensive care units whose patients can suffer potentially very serious consequences because of the critical nature of their diseases and the pharmacotherapy programs implemented in these patients. The origins of these errors discussed in the literature are wide-ranging, although far-reaching variables are of particular special interest to those involved in training nurses. The main objective of this research was to study if the level of knowledge that critical-care nurses have about the use and administration of medications is related to the most common medication errors.


This was a mixed (multi-method) study with three phases that combined quantitative and qualitative techniques. In phase 1 patient medical records were reviewed; phase 2 consisted of an interview with a focus group; and an ad hoc questionnaire was carried out in phase 3.


The global medication error index was 1.93%. The main risk areas were errors in the interval of administration of antibiotics (8.15% error rate); high-risk medication dilution, concentration, and infusion-rate errors (2.94% error rate); and errors in the administration of medications via nasogastric tubes (11.16% error rate).


Nurses have a low level of knowledge of the drugs they use the most and with which a greater number of medication errors are committed in the ICU.
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