Barriers to reporting medication errors and near misses among nurses: A systematic review

Dominika Vrbnjak, Suzanne Denieffe, Claire O'Gorman, Majda Pajnkihar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Objective To explore barriers to nurses’ reporting of medication errors and near misses in hospital settings. Design Systematic review. Data sources Medline, CINAHL, PubMed and Cochrane Library in addition to Google and Google Scholar and reference lists of relevant studies published in English between January 1981 and April 2015 were searched for relevant qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods empirical studies or unpublished PhD theses. Papers with a primary focus on barriers to reporting medication errors and near misses in nursing were included. Review methods The titles and abstracts of the search results were assessed for eligibility and relevance by one of the authors. After retrieval of the full texts, two of the authors independently made decisions concerning the final inclusion and these were validated by the third reviewer. Three authors independently assessed methodological quality of studies. Relevant data were extracted and findings were synthesised using thematic synthesis. Results From 4038 identified records, 38 studies were included in the synthesis. Findings suggest that organizational barriers such as culture, the reporting system and management behaviour in addition to personal and professional barriers such as fear, accountability and characteristics of nurses are barriers to reporting medication errors. Conclusions To overcome reported barriers it is necessary to develop a non-blaming, non-punitive and non-fearful learning culture at unit and organizational level. Anonymous, effective, uncomplicated and efficient reporting systems and supportive management behaviour that provides open feedback to nurses is needed. Nurses are accountable for patients’ safety, so they need to be educated and skilled in error management. Lack of research into barriers to reporting of near misses’ and low awareness of reporting suggests the need for further research and development of educational and management approaches to overcome these barriers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-178
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2016


  • Barrier
  • Medication errors
  • Near miss
  • Nurses
  • Patient safety
  • Systematic review


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