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There is growing evidence that errors and omissions often occur in the nursing assessment and care of patients. As yet, the impact of audit has been insufficient to correct these deficiencies, possibly because audit does not primarily focus on the causes of deficiencies. The purpose of this study was to examine the perceived causes of omissions in the assessment of patients with chest pain and to compare these with omissions detected in an audit of the assessment records. The type of attributions nurses used to explain the causes of the omissions was also investigated. Following an audit of the assessment records of patients with chest pain, 88 nurses were invited to answer a 51-item questionnaire relating to the types of omissions which occurred in the assessment of patients with chest pain. The results showed a marked discrepancy between the frequency of reported omissions and those found in the assessment records. The most common causes of omissions reported by the nurses were patients' condition, work overload, lack of time, poor assessment documentation, not realizing that the assessment had not been fully carried out and different nurses being involved in the assessment of patients. Nurses overwhelmingly attributed the causes of omissions to external or environmental factors rather than internal ones such as lack of knowledge or fatigue, which have implications for the types of strategies that might be used to improve care.

Original publication




Journal article


J Adv Nurs

Publication Date





1012 - 1019


Adult, Aged, Chest Pain, England, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Nursing Assessment, Nursing Audit, Surveys and Questionnaires