Letter to the Editor by Melanie Grimes to “Ethics: Ethical Issues with Medical Errors: Shaping a Culture of Safety in Healthcare”


August 8, 2018

Response by Melanie Grimes to “Ethics: Ethical Issues with Medical Errors: Shaping a Culture of Safety in Healthcare” by Jeanne Sorrell (March 7, 2017).

Dear Editor:

I am writing to you in regards to “Ethics: Ethical Issues with Medical Errors: Shaping a Culture of Safety in Healthcare” (Sorrell, 2017). The number of deaths caused by medical errors in the United States is outrageously high, and I believe there are many things we, as nurses, can do to change that. I propose we make changes to our work culture to promote reporting of medical errors and even make the reporting of these deadly errors mandatory.

It is a nurse’s moral duty to do everything possible for the good of the patients. Nurses often times avoid reporting medical errors because they are scared of the retribution of admitting their mistakes by management and the organization. One method of avoiding this dilemma altogether is to promote a culture of safety in the workplace so that nurses do not have to worry about consequences more than their patients. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA) a culture of safety is “core values and behaviors resulting from a collective and sustained commitment by organizational leadership, managers and health care workers to emphasize safety over competing goals.” Healthy environments for healthcare providers to work in are vital not only for retention, but patient safety. “Organizations must create an environment where healthcare providers feel supported in reporting, disclosing, and discussing errors” (Sorrell, 2017).

By making reporting of serious adverse events mandatory, it’s likely that there would be more favorable patient outcomes. This concept was noticed in Pennsylvania when they developed a state agency to make an impact after there was a medical malpractice crisis in their state. According to BNA's Health Care Policy “under the law, hospitals, ambulatory facilities, birthing centers and some abortion clinics are required to report serious events and incidents to the authority, which analyzes data, publishes reports and makes recommendations for improvement” (Pappas, 2015, para 4). This same report noted that after this law was implemented, there was a 37 percent drop in “all-cause harm” and 26 percent in readmissions (Pappas, 2015, para 8). Adapting laws similar to this in all states could improve patient safety.

Medical errors are often preventable and by nurses taking a stand to make a change, the outrageously high mortality rate across the nation can change. Why not initiate these changes to tackle the third leading cause of death (medical errors) in the United States? Nurse leaders can make a change in the workplace by promoting efficient and safe patient care and promoting transparency. Nurses involved in state legislature can promote agencies similar to Pennsylvania’s to make laws that require reporting of serious medical errors to promote education and growth. There are plenty of things to change in the medical field and preventing healthcare medical errors starts with us.


Melanie Grimes, RN
UNC Wilmington RN-BSN Student


Sorrell, J.M., (March 7, 2017) Ethics: Ethical issues with medical errors: Shaping a culture of safety in healthcare" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 22(2). doi: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol22No02EthCol01

Pappas, L.A. (2015. May 5). Report says ‘high harm’ events declined 45 percent over 10 years. Bloomberg BNA: BNA’s Health Care Policy Report. Retrieved from http://patientsafety.pa.gov/NewsAndInformation/authorityinthenews/Documents/Report%20Says%20%E2%80%98High%20Harm%27%20Events%20Declined%2045%20Percent%20Over%2010%20Years_5_20_15.pdf