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Table 2 The nine different categories of medication errors

From: Medication errors as malpractice-a qualitative content analysis of 585 medication errors by nurses in Sweden

Error type

N (%)

Stories illustrating the categories

Wrong dose

241 (41)

Due to bad communication between a nurse and an assistant nurse, they both gave a woman with diabetes insulin.

Wrong drug

96 (16)

A man with heart failure was given morphine instead of furosemide intravenously because the nurse was thinking of another patient.

Wrong patient

76 (13)

An in-patient was given drugs that were meant for the patient in the next bed.


69 (12)

A patient did not get warfarin for 2 weeks since the medication was temporarily discontinued and then forgotten.

Unauthorized drug

57 (10)

A nurse gave a patient with severe pain a higher dose of analgesics than prescribed because the lower dose had not resulted in pain relief. No physician was available at the time.

Wrong route

35 (6)

Due to a misunderstanding of the nurse’s instructions, an assistant nurse administered ear drops into the eyes of a nursing home patient.

Wrong judgement (or inadequate assessment of the patient’s need for treatment)

16 (3)

A patient who had very a low blood sugar was nevertheless given her prescribed dose of insulin.

Wrong management or storage of the drug,

11 (2)

A nurse who could not find the proper drug picked up a package from a box of discarded drugs and gave it to the patient.

Allergy-related error

9 (2)

Using the department’s the list of drugs that nurses are allowed to administer occasionally without a doctor’s order, a nurse administered alimemazine to a patient from without noticing that the patient was allergic to this drug.


3 (<1)


Total numbers of errors in the 585 cases


  1. Table 2 shows the nine different categories of medication errors, the number and the percent calculated in relation to the 585 cases for each category and examples illustrating each category