Nurses' clinical reasoning practices that support safe medication administration: an integrative review of the literature

Medicines Management Collection
Journal Of Clinical Nursing
Publication date:
19 September 2017


AIM AND OBJECTIVES: To review current literature about nurses' clinical reasoning practices that support safe medication administration. BACKGROUND: The literature about medication administration frequently focuses on avoiding medication errors. Nurses' clinical reasoning used during medication administration to maintain medication safety receives less attention in the literature. As health care professionals, nurses work closely with patients, assessing and intervening to promote mediation safety prior to, during and after medication administration. They also provide discharge teaching about using medication safely. Nurses' clinical reasoning and practices that support medication safety are often invisible when the focus is medication errors avoidance. DESIGN: An integrative literature review was guided by Whittemore and Knafl's (2005) five- stage review of the 11 articles that met review criteria. This review is modeled after Gaffney et al.'s (2016) integrative review on medical error recovery. METHODS: Health databases were accessed and systematically searched for research reporting nurses' clinical reasoning practices that supported safe medication administration. The level and quality of evidence of the included research articles were assessed using The Johns Hopkins Nursing Evidence-Based Practice Rating Scale(c). RESULTS: Nurses' have a central role in safe medication administration, including but not limited to risk awareness about the potential for medication errors. Nurses assess patients and their medication, use knowledge and clinical reasoning to administer medication safely. Results indicated nurses' use of clinical reasoning to maintain safe medication administration was inadequately articulated in ten of eleven studies reviewed. CONCLUSION: Nurses' are primarily responsible for safe medication administration. Nurses draw from their foundational knowledge of patient conditions and organizational processes and use clinical reasoning that supports safe medication practice. There was minimal evidence clearly articulating nurses' clinical reasoning used to support medication safety. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: This review focused on finding evidence of nurses' clinical reasoning that supported safe medication administration. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.