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The Rise of Medical Errors in Hospitals

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It’s a fact: preventable medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States. View the infographic below to see how the data stacks up. Many medical professionals today, such as Clinical Nurse Leaders, are working toward improving our overall standard of care so we can all be safer.

Learn more about the Queens University Master of Science in Nursing with a Clinical Nurse Leader focus and take the first step toward becoming a positive agent of change in our healthcare system.

The Rise of Medical Errors in Hospitals

The U.S. has an evolved healthcare system with highly trained personnel, cutting edge technology, and an abundance of resources. However, because of the everyday stresses and taxing schedules of many medical workers, preventable errors continue to occur.

By the Numbers

  1. heart disease.
  2. cancer
  3. preventable medical errors

Preventable medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., following heart disease and cancer.1

According to the Journal of Patient Safety, preventable medical mistakes claim 210,000 lives a year. However, errors of omission and diagnostic errors cause that number to rise to 440,000. That’s more than 1,200 deaths each day.


[= 1,200 deaths a day]

A Medicare patient has a ONE IN FOUR chance of experiencing injury, harm, or death when admitted to a hospital.

10,000 serious complications cases resulting from medical errors occur each day.2

Medical errors cost the U.S. $1 trillion each year.

Error Causes

The cause of medical errors can be anything from a sponge left inside a surgical patient, to administering the wrong medication dosage, to an infection from contaminated equipment.

Errors of Commission: The risk from receiving too little, too much, or hazardous treatment.

Errors of Omission: The risk of disease-related adverse events due to inadequate treatment or no treatment.

Errors of Communication: Miscommunication among staff that results in mistreatment or wrong diagnosis.

Errors of Context: When the unique constraints in a patient’s life, post-discharge, are not taken into account by staff.

Diagnostic Errors: Diagnoses that are either wrong, missed, or delayed.

Error Types


Every year, one out of every 25 patients develops an infection while in the hospital.

In the U.S., more than 2 million people are affected by hospital-acquired infections each year, killing anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 people. The most common hospital-acquired infections include:

  • Central line-associated bloodstream infections.
  • Surgical site infections after surgery.
  • Catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
  • Costridium difficile infections.


ADEs (Adverse Drug Events*) affect nearly 5% of hospitalized patients, making them one of the most common types of inpatient errors.

*Adverse Drug Events are injuries resulting from drug-related medical interventions.

Clinicians have access to more than 10,000 prescription medications, and nearly one-third of adults in the United States take five or more medications.

Though medical errors continue to occur in the U.S., many healthcare workers excel in their jobs every day. Some, such as Clinical Nurse Leaders, exist to help reduce the frequency of these errors. Receiving your Master of Science with a focus in Clinical Nurse Leadership from Queens University of Charlotte can help make a difference in the medical field for setting the standards of excellent patient care.


  1. Journal of Patient Safety

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