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Learning from errors: critical incident reporting in nursing

Martin Gartmeier (TUM School of Medicine, Technische Universitat Munchen, Munchen, Germany)
Eva Ottl (TUM School of Education, Technische Universitat Munchen, Munchen, Germany)
Johannes Bauer (Allgemeine Erziehungswissenschaften und Empirische Bildungsforschung, University of Erfurt, Erfurt, Germany)
Pascal Oliver Berberat (TUM School of Medicine, Technische Universitat Munchen, Munchen, Germany)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize error reporting as a strategy for informal workplace learning and investigate nurses’ error reporting cost/benefit evaluations and associated behaviors.


A longitudinal survey study was carried out in a hospital setting with two measurements (time 1 [t1]: implementation of a critical incident reporting (CIR) system; t2: three months after t1). Correlational and hierarchical cluster analyses were used to interpret the data.


Positive cost-benefit correlations and negative cross-correlations were found, with no substantial changes over time. “Reporters” and “learners” were differentiated regarding error-reporting behaviors. Cost-benefit perceptions predicted membership in the “reporters” group; perception of effort costs negatively predicted an error-reporting preference.

Research limitations/implications

This study was limited, in that only a questionnaire was used to collect data.

Practical implications

Stressing the benefits of CIR systems should contribute to reducing employees’ perception of reporting costs; thus, ease of use is a critical factor in CIR system use.


The study empirically probes a well-established theoretical model, and various ideas for further research are suggested.



Gartmeier, M., Ottl, E., Bauer, J. and Berberat, P.O. (2017), "Learning from errors: critical incident reporting in nursing", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 29 No. 5, pp. 343-356.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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