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MSN Course Insight: Understanding Medical Error

Preview what Walden University students are learning with this required reading taken from the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) course Transforming Nursing and Healthcare through Information Technology.

According to a John Hopkins study, as many as 250,000 people die in the U.S. every year due to medical error, making medical errors the third leading cause of death among Americans.1 That’s a sobering statistic, particularly if you’re a nurse or other healthcare provider. The potential to save lives unfortunately can come with the risk of unintentionally harming those in need.

So, what can you, as a nurse, do to prevent medical errors? The answer is: learn. The more you understand why medical errors happen, the more you’ll be able to identify potential mistakes and help design procedures and systems that reduce the chance of fatal error. That’s why, in the Walden University Master of Science in Nursing course Transforming Nursing and Healthcare through Information Technology, MSN nursing students study the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark report “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System.”2

MSN Course Insight: Understanding Medical Error

In this report, the IOM discusses the problem of medical error and lays out the most common ways medical errors occur. These include:


  • Error or delay in diagnosis
  • Failure to employ indicated tests
  • Use of outmoded tests or therapy
  • Failure to act on results of monitoring or testing


  • Error in the performance of an operation, procedure, or test
  • Error in administering the treatment error in the dose or method of using a drug
  • Avoidable delay in treatment or in responding to an abnormal test
  • Inappropriate (not indicated) care


  • Failure to provide prophylactic treatment
  • Inadequate monitoring or follow-up of treatment


  • Failure of communication
  • Equipment failure
  • Other system failure

Understanding these types of common errors can help you avoid them. In the Walden MSN degree course Transforming Nursing and Healthcare through Information Technology, you can study various ways modern technology is helping prevent error. But that’s just one way a master’s in nursing program can help you learn how to avoid error and be a better nurse.

When you choose to earn a Master of Science in Nursing, you’re choosing to elevate your nursing skills—and, in the process, help your nursing career. As a graduate from an MSN program, depending on your specialization, you could have the training you need to pursue work as a nurse practitioner, take on a role in nurse management, or become a nurse leader in nursing education, health informatics, or other nursing field. Through any of these higher-level careers in nursing, you can make a significant difference in your patients’ lives and the quality of our healthcare system in general.

Worried that earning a master’s degree in nursing will take too much of your time? You’re not alone. That’s why online nursing schools are becoming an increasingly popular option for working nurses. Through an online MSN program, you can continue living and working right where you are now, taking courses via the internet. Plus, master’s in nursing online programs are designed with flexible scheduling, allowing you take classes at whatever time of day works best for you.

Moving from a BSN degree to an MSN can make a real difference in your life and the lives of your patients. And thanks to online learning, earning an MSN degree is more attainable than ever before.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an Master of Science in Nursing degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,