Five Common Mistakes That Nurses Must Avoid

nursing mistakes

We’ve always been taught that in Nursing, you can’t afford to commit mistakes; that perfection is the name of the game because we are dealing with the most delicate of all: HUMAN LIFE.

Nonetheless, nurses, no matter how logical they might think and act, are simply human beings. They are capable of committing certain errors every once in a while.

To better equip nurses with the knowledge they need to avoid committing nursing mistakes, here are foolproof tips:

1. Medication Errors

Dispensing the wrong medication, dispensing the wrong dose of medication, giving a medication to the wrong patient, and failing to monitor patient’s condition are some of the errors under this category. Keep in mind a are potentially life-threatening to patients.

No one is excused to this kind of pitfall; you can either be a new nurse or a staff nurse with years of experience and still commit this awful mistake.

For student nurses, common causes are lack of “presence of mind”, extreme pressure, and fear of their clinical instructors that will provide a barrier which will make open communication and learning between them impossible.

Experienced nurses, on the other hand, usually commit mistakes due to overfatigue. Burnout is considered as one of the biggest causes of medication errors among nurses (1).

How to Avoid:

The moment you enter the hospital premises, you have to leave your ego behind. Forget any personal/family problems that you have and deal with it later after your shift. Always have a presence of mind. Deal with your patients as if they are one of your loved ones.

More importantly, don’t ever forget the 10 golden rules for administering drugs safely. Remember, as a nurse, it’s a crime and a potential source of negligence to forget this essential information.

2. Patient Falls

Patient falls often occur when patients attempt to get up on their own to use the bathroom or pick up something out of reach. This commonly happens among patients without any relatives around to assist or attend to their needs. This might cause injuries or even death to patients if measures to avoid it are not strictly followed.

How to Avoid:

Do nursing rounds to patients, especially those who are high-risk for falls hourly during the day or every two hours at night. Make sure that personal belongings and things that are essential to the patient are within his/her reach. Follow safety procedures (e.g. raising side rails) and let patients know that you are always ready to help in case they need assistance.

3. Infection

It will never be an excuse to say that infections can normally be found in hospitals. As agents of health, we’re supposed to help prevent it. We have to uplift our patients’ condition at all times.

How to Avoid:

Never underestimate the power of hand hygiene and using techniques to avoid the occurrence of infections. Nurses should remember that iatrogenic infections are caused by nurses’ negligence most of the time.

4. Documentation/Charting Errors

Admit it.

Your experience as a nurse will never predict if you will commit documentation errors or not during the span of your career. Recording information in your patient’s chart is an important part of your job as a nurse.

There are many ways that charting mistakes can be made. By making yourself more aware of these eight common pitfalls, you can avoid these mistakes and any potential lawsuit that can be filed against you for making them.

a. Failing to record pertinent health or drug information
b. Failing to record nursing actions
c. Failing to record that medications have been given
d. Recording on the wrong chart
e. Failing to document a discontinued medication
f. Failing to record drug reactions or changes in the patient’s condition
g. Transcribing orders improperly or transcribing improper orders
h. Writing illegible or incomplete records

How to avoid:

Never stop learning. When in doubt, always ask your seniors or other staff nurses who are more experienced than you are. Always remember the basic reminder that says “Nursing procedure not charted is a nursing procedure not done“.

5. Treating Nursing as a “JOB”

A lot of nursing graduates are either forced to take up Nursing or took the course because of the promise for a better life abroad. These are the same people who take Nursing as a job and not as a vocation.

In the long run, these people might commit fatal errors because they are not keen to details, don’t really love what they do, and always excited to go home. They curse every second they spend caring for their patients.

Remember, we are handling lives so we should always try to keep the words “mistake” and “error” out of our vocabulary.


  1. Hall, L. H., Johnson, J., Watt, I., Tsipa, A., & O’Connor, D. B. (2016). Healthcare staff wellbeing, burnout, and patient safety: a systematic review. PloS one, 11(7).