The Top 10 Mistakes Virginia Nurses Make that Lead to Malpractice Claims

March 10, 2017, 11:30 AM

Have you ever made a mistake before? If so, congratulations. You’re human.  If not (and I don’t believe you), take it from me, if you live long enough, you will.

Everyone makes mistakes, even nurses; even the best, most competent nurses. Most  mistakes are small and harmless. But nursing mistakes have the potential to be catastrophic.

I like to think I was a pretty good nurse, but I made a nearly-catastrophic mistake as a nursing student that scared me so much, I almost quit nursing before I began.

And I spent the rest of my nursing career just a little more on edge because of it.

Mistakes happen, but some are more costly than others; both in terms of lives and liability.

I’ve learned that the best way to avoid the most costly mistakes is to first be aware of them, and then to recognize the circumstances that lead to them.

So, in order to help you recognize and better prepare for the circumstances that lead to them, here are the top 10 (alleged) mistakes Virginia nurses make that lead to malpractice suits:

  1. Failure to recognize/respond to deterioration in a patient’s condition
  2. Failure to prevent/treat pressure wounds
  3. Failure to assess fall risk and/or implement proper fall precautions
  4. Failure to maintain proper materials counts to prevent retained objects
  5. Failure to properly insert, ensure proper placement, and/or monitor for complications associated with IV and PICC lines
  6. Failure to communicate patient condition/events with physician or other treating provider
  7. Failure to follow and/or exercise proper discretion in following physicians’ orders
  8. Failure to property insert, discontinue, or recognize complications associated with Foley catheters
  9. Failure to protect patient from third party harm
  10. Failure to prevent patient elopement

Obviously, some of these mistakes are more prevalent in certain environments than others. For example, elopement, falls, and pressure wound cases tend to originate most often in the long-term care setting, whereas retained objects are more prevalent in acute care.

In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into each topic to better explore the circumstances surrounding its occurrence and to develop strategies for avoiding it.

Also, check out next week’s blog post for a discussion about the principles of good documentation, as this is an underlying issue in most, if not all, of the Top 10 Mistakes.

For now, though, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these issues. Without revealing specific details (i.e., names, dates, locations, etc.), have you or anyone you’ve worked with ever been accused of harming a patient by allegedly committing one of these common mistakes?  And which causes you the most concern?

Beth Norton