Sleep deprivation and medication administration errors in registered nurses—A scoping review

Journal article

Martin, Christopher, Joyce-McCoach, Joanne, Peddle, Monica and East, Christine. (2024). Sleep deprivation and medication administration errors in registered nurses—A scoping review. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 33(3), pp. 859-879.
AuthorsMartin, Christopher, Joyce-McCoach, Joanne, Peddle, Monica and East, Christine

Aim: To explore whether sleep deprivation contributes to medication errors in registered nurses (RNs).

Background: Sleep deprivation is a potential issue for RNs, particularly those who work shifts. Sleep deprivation has been found to have a negative impact on numerous cognitive processes. Nurses administer several medications to patients a day, potentially while sleep deprived—anecdotal reports suggest that this could result in an increased risk of error occurring.

Design: A scoping review was conducted using the Prisma-ScR extension framework to explore what is known about the effect of RNs' sleep deprivation on medication administration errors.

Methods: A search of databases generated 171 results. When inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied, 18 empirical studies were analysed. Studies included retrospective analysis of errors, surveys of perceptions of causes and observational studies.

Results: Data indicated that RNs consider fatigue, which may be caused by sleep deprivation, to be a contributing factor to medication errors. The search only identified three observer studies, which provided conflicting results as to whether lack of sleep contributes to the error rate. Of the numerous tools used to measure sleep, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index was the most frequently used.

Conclusion: Although RNs anecdotally consider a lack of sleep potentially contributes to medication errors, there is insufficient research to provide robust evidence to confirm this assumption.

No Patient or Public Contributions: Patient or public contributions were not required for this scoping review.

Relevance to Clinical Practice: Sleep deprivation is a potential issue for nurses, especially those who work shifts. Poor sleep impacts cognitive processes that potentially could increase errors. Nurses should be aware of the impact sleep may have on patient safety.

Keywordsdrug error; fatigue; human factors; medication error; registered nurse; sleep deprivation
Year01 Jan 2024
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Journal citation33 (3), pp. 859-879
PublisherWiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (UK)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Web address (URL)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range859-879
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online23 Oct 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted02 Oct 2023
Deposited30 May 2024
Additional information

© 2023 The Authors. Journal of Clinical Nursing published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Open access publishing facilitated by La Trobe University, as part of the Wiley - La Trobe University agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians.

Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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