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10 Patient Safety Facts Every Nursing Student Should Know

Nurses are on the front lines of patient safety efforts. Along with an advanced MSN degree, knowledge of the top causes of patient harm can greatly aid nursing students in learning how to keep patients safe.

When it comes to patient safety, many factors come into play: adequate staffing, interruptions, and possible burnout of staff, which can all lead to unfavorable patient outcomes. And although the doctor is usually considered the head of the medical team, nurses—who maintain a constant bedside presence—are at the forefront of patient safety efforts. They also work closely with doctors, pharmacists, patients, and families. As such, they are in a prime position to note errors or near misses and relay important health information to doctors.1

As a nurse interested in earning your master’s degree in nursing, it is important to be aware of your role in patient safety. Understanding patient safety concerns and how to ensure positive patient outcomes will greatly assist you as you progress in your field. And, not only will you need to be able to be aware of your own role in patient safety, but as an aspiring nursing leader with an MSN degree, you will also need to be able to guide other nurses into their roles.

10 Patient Safety Facts Every Nursing Student Should Know

10 Patient Safety Facts From the World Health Organization

Every nursing student should be aware of the most common facts about patient safety. The World Health Organization (WHO) has done significant work in bringing awareness to patient safety concerns. Below are the WHO’s 10 most common patient safety issues to be aware of to help better prepare you to influence positive patient outcomes.2

  1. Adverse events due to unsafe care is likely on of the top 10 leading causes of death and disability worldwide, resulting in more than 2.5 million deaths each year.
  2. One in every 10 patients in the hospital is harmed in some way. About half of those incidents are preventable.
  3. The leading cause of patient harm in hospitals is medication errors, with an estimated $42 billion in costs in U.S dollars.
  4. About 15% of health spending is wasted on dealing with adverse events.
  5. Studies have shown that investments in increasing patient safety can lead to substantial cost savings: Between 2010 and 2015, focused patient safety efforts resulted in $28 billion savings in Medicare hospitals in the United States.
  6. About 10% of admitted hospital patients are affected by an infection; experts estimate that low-cost infection control measures can cut the infection rate by 55%.
  7. Globally, more than 1 million patients die each year from post-surgical complications.
  8. Diagnostic errors contribute to about 10% of patient deaths in the United States.
  9. Increased X-ray exposure remains a patient safety concern, with over 3.5 billion X-rays performed globally each year. Millions of patients are harmed each year due to inaccurate or delayed medical diagnosis and about half of the situations result in in severe harm.

How You Can Influence Patient Safety

As a nurse, you can do many things to ensure patient safety, as nurses often perform administrative tasks, administer medication, maintain cleanliness of the patient, and can bring important symptoms and events to light with doctors through careful observation.

If you are in a leadership role, there is even more than you can do while working with other nursing staff. Implementing the following five strategies can greatly decrease negative outcomes and errors.

  • Cultivate a culture of safety. Making patient safety your number one concern, and the number one concern of all of the staff you work with, can greatly improve patient outcomes.
  • Practice good communication. Effective communication between nurses and doctors, RNs and CNAs, and workers on different shifts can really help eliminate errors. Patient handoffs is one of the primary areas where there can be improvement in communication to promote safety.
  • Provide checklists. Tools such as checklists can aid in communication between caregivers and nurses so that everyone is on the same page about what has been done. Checklists also help ensure that missed care does not occur, even when the nurse is distracted or interrupted.
  • Listen to patients. Paying attention to patient concerns is another way that you can improve patient safety. Really listen to your patients and get them talking. If you hear your patient say that something doesn’t seem right, ask questions and double-check everything to make sure that no mistakes are being made.
  • Learn from past mistakes. Holding discussions with other nurses on staff when mistakes or near misses occur can be viewed as teaching moments; when the lesson is learned, the mistake is not likely to be repeated.

How an MSN Degree Can Help You Improve Patient Safety

Completing a Master of Science in Nursing degree program from Walden University can prepare you for advancement, helping you move into a new phase of your nursing career.

Walden’s online nursing school offers eight specializations in its master’s in nursing program including:

Each of Walden’s online MSN program specializations can inform and equip you to improve patient outcomes and effectively handle challenging issues that may come your way. Choose a master’s in nursing online program specialization that’s a good fit for you and steer your nursing career in a fulfilling new direction.

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


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,