The Human Factor: Exploring the Psychology of Making an Error

The phenomenon of the so-called human factor as the justification for and explanation of an error is quite well-known. Implying the completion of a routine activity and making an involuntary mistake in the process, the concept of the human error can be found in any area, healthcare not being an exception (Pazart et al., 2017). In a healthcare environment, the problem of the human factor may occur when one forgets to perform a routine activity such as checking a patient’s vitals or writes down the results of health assessment wrong (Shuen & Wahab, 2016). The observed situation is often influenced by the presence of exhaustion in healthcare staff members and can be managed by introducing changes in scheduling and the levels of workload in the healthcare environment.

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Relying on memory is one of the core contributors to the creation of premises for human errors to take place. Therefore, a healthcare expert may need to introduce the healthcare approaches that will allow one to reduce the probability of an error caused by the human factor by creating a more comfortable environment for employees (Mate & Rakover, 2016). Relieving the pressure that staff members experience in the workplace by rescheduling their responsibilities and offering them more opportunities for taking rest are the first steps toward handling the problem of the human error.

The processes observed in the healthcare setting, such as the provision of the necessary treatment and interventions, as well as emotional support, would have looked drastically different if employees were completely tired. For example, it is virtually impossible to elicit a genuine emotional response from staff members in the scenarios that require their emotional support for patients (Kachirskaia, Mate, & Neuwirth, 2018). In case the levels of distraction were high, staff members could make errors associated with the dosage of medications, the measurement of changes in patients’ health, and similar issues. Nevertheless, in some circumstances, such as the ICU environment, the proposed tools and processes will not be as helpful due to reduced nurse-patient communication and the need to adjust to rapid changes in patients’ well-being immediately.

Overall, the errors that would occur if the levels of workplace pressure were increased would be characterized as medical. Although the outcomes of these mistakes are not expected to be as drastic as they might be in the clinical environment of an ICU, the effects of these errors may still take its toll on patients’ health (MedStar Health, 2017). The length of the hospital stay would rise, whereas the process of recovery would be slackened significantly, with the threat of patients developing comorbid issues and hospital-acquired infections (HAI) (Shuen & Wahab, 2016). Therefore, strategies for preventing the emergence of human-factor-driven errors have to be seen as necessary.

The steps described above cannot be bypassed since they are integrated into the hospital’s functioning. On the one hand, the rigid design does not allow for flexibility; on the other hand, it sets clear standards and workplace ethical principles for the staff to follow, which makes it a rather good design (Federico, 2016). Furthermore, a new employee will be less prone not make more mistakes than an experienced one due to the presence of clear and unchangeable rules (The Joint Commission, 2018). A rigid system allows minimizing the number of mistakes made as a result of the human factor, yet staff members may also benefit from the inclusion of more comfortable workplace conditions.

By reducing the workload and, thus, alleviating the pressure that employees in the healthcare environment experience, one will create premises for avoiding the mistakes made as a result of the human factor. By addressing the concerns caused by the increase in the levels of exhaustion and stress among employees, one can improve the quality of healthcare services significantly by eliminating the errors caused by the human factor. A change in the workplace environment aimed at relieving the pressure and stress experienced by employees will ultimately lead to a drop in the accidents caused by the human error.


Federico, F. (2016). Human factors. Web.

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Kachirskaia, I., Mate, K. S., & Neuwirth, E. (2018). Human-centered design and performance improvement: Better together. Web.

Mate, K. S., & Rakover, J. (2016). 4 steps to sustaining improvement in health care. Web.

MedStar Health. (2017). Human factors and systems safety engineering in healthcare. Web.

Pazart, L., Sall, F. S., De Luca, A., Vivot-Pugin, A., Pili-Floury, S., Capellier, G., & Khoury, A. (2017). Consideration of the human factor in the design and development of a new medical device: Example of a device to assist manual ventilation. Biodevices, 1(5), 215-223. Web.

Shuen, Y. S., & Wahab, S. R. A. (2016). The mediating effect of safety culture on safety communication and human factor accident at the workplace. Asian Social Science, 12(12), 127-142. Web.

The Joint Commission. (2018). National patient safety goals effective January 2018. Web.

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