Nurses' perceptions of how physical environment affects medication errors in acute care settings.

Department of Gerontology, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Applied nursing research: ANR (Impact Factor: 0.87). 11/2011; 24(4):229-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.apnr.2009.08.005
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The work that nurses perform in hospital environments is physically and psychologically intense, with the potential for burnout and stress. This issue is compounded by crowded and poorly designed work spaces in nursing units that can contribute to medical mistakes, including medication errors. This article is based on a study that examined the nurses' perception of how the physical environment in hospitals affects medication errors. Literature suggests that reduction of staff stress can be achieved through physical environmental considerations, such as improved air quality, acoustics, and lighting. However, there is no empirical study specifically exploring the relationship between aspects of the physical environment and medication errors. In this study, a cross-sectional survey was conducted with nursing staff (N = 84) in four hospitals in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The survey included questions on nursing unit design, medication room configurations, perceived incidence of errors, and adverse events. Respondents noted several physical environmental factors that are potentially problematic in the nursing station area and can lead to medication, documentation, and other types of nursing errors. These factors include inadequate space in charting and documentation area, lengthy walking distances to patient rooms, insufficient patient surveillance opportunity/lack of visibility to all parts of the nursing unit, small size of the medication room, inappropriate organization of medical supplies, high noise levels in nursing unit, poor lighting, and lack of privacy in the nursing stations. As administrators in acute care facilities consider strategies for organizational and staff interventions to reduce medication errors, it is important to consider physical environmental factors to have a comprehensive understanding of the issue.

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