The critical need for nursing education to address the diagnostic process

Kelly Gleason, Gene Harkless, Joan Stanley, Andrew P.J. Olson, Mark L. Graber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Diagnostic errors are among the most common medical errors and the deadliest. The National Academy of Medicine recently concluded that diagnostic errors represent an urgent national concern. Their first recommendation to address this issue called for promoting the key role of the nurse in the diagnostic process. Registered nurses across clinical settings significantly contribute to the medical diagnostic process, though their role in diagnosis has historically gone unacknowledged. In this paper, we review the history and current state of diagnostic education in pre-licensure registered nurse preparation, introduce interprofessional individual- and team-based competencies to improve diagnostic safety, and discuss the next steps for nursing education. Nurses educated and empowered to fully participate in the diagnostic process are essential for achieving better, safer patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-369
Number of pages8
JournalNursing outlook
Issue number3
Early online dateJan 14 2021
StatePublished - May 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
K. Gleason receives funding from the following sources: NIH NCATS Institutional Career Development Core, KL2 TR003099, NIH NCATS Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, UL1TR003098, and AHRQ A Human Factors and Systems Approach for Understanding the Diagnostic Process and Associated Safety Hazards in the Emergency Department, R01 HS 027198. M.L. Graber receives grant funding from the Macy Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)


  • Diagnostic error
  • Education
  • Nursing


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