Active and Latent Errors in Nursing

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 1
Words: 282
Reading time:
2 min

Errors occur in all spheres of human activity, and healthcare is no exception. From a professional point of view, there are two categories of failure, active and latent. The active ones are apparent; it is easy to identify the person responsible for them in such cases. In other words, these are frontline errors. The latent ones are less obvious and are systematic or organizational in nature. It can be said that latent errors are the source of active ones.

Nurses are those health professionals who interact the most with patients. They are more likely than others to face the consequences of active errors. Examples are “failure to follow or improperly perform procedures; failure to assist patients and prevent falls, unsafe placement, or positioning of equipment; failure to maintain equipment properly” (Pozgar, 2014, p. 305). That is why nurses must know the ways to avoid them. Standard methods include avoiding negligent care and harmful practices, as well as disclosing near-harm events to patients (Butts & Rich, 2016). Following the provisions of the code of ethics also helps to avoid active failures.

The nursing staff is an essential part of any healthcare organization. Therefore, nurses can be one of the causes of latent error, victims of its adverse effects, or both. An example of it is the organization’s ethical collapse when management and decision-making begin to contradict ethical norms (Butts & Rich, 2016). It is the duty of nurses, like any other medical organization branch, to avoid latent failures in their practice. Nurses can prevent latent errors through improving relationships within the nursing staff and other health professionals, monitoring the ethical climate, and developing leadership qualities and styles, such as servant, transformational and authentic.


Butts, J. B., & Rich, K. L. (2016). Nursing ethics: Across the curriculum and into practice. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Pozgar, G. D. (2014). Legal and ethical issues for health professionals. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.