Scope of the Problem

'Medical error' remains one of the most significant public safety issues. Evidence indicates that for all its technical prowess the American healthcare system generates an incidence of preventable harm and mortality that would not be tolerated within any other for-profit industry. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has failed to implement regulatory infrastructure capable of protecting the patient or even systematically tracking injuries associated with medical treatment. There are agencies that enforce regulations pertaining to: worker safety, nuclear energy, aviation, etc. However, there is no single federal agency charged with regulating medical practice or the power to compel best practices.

The following studies provide evidence of the scope of Health care associated harm and death:

U.S. Hospital Patient Safety
Data Years Safety events Avoidable deaths
HealthGrades Patient Safety 2005-2007 913,215 97,755
  2006-2008 958,202 96,402
  2007-2009 708,642 79,670

James, JT. (2013) A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. J Patient Saf. 2013;9:122–128

2004-2008   210,000-400,00/year

Nursing provides the vast majority of direct patient care. Whether it is transmission of nosocomial infection, medication error, wrong-site surgery, failure to protect, etc.; nursing was probably involved at some point. Nursing must act to establish safe patient care as its singular purpose.