Diagnostic errors are common and costly, and they pose risk for serious patient harm.1-3 In its landmark report Improving Diagnosis in Healthcare, the Institute of Medicine describes the need for a core diagnostic team composed of patients and families, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.1 This approach calls for collaborative communication and teamwork among all members of the diverse diagnostic team and requires evolution of traditional roles, responsibilities, and competencies.
Diagnostic safety experts have made many recommendations to introduce and integrate team-based competencies in nursing and other allied health professional prelicensure education programs.4-8 However, nurses may have varying degrees of understanding regarding their roles in the diagnostic process, as we do not know the extent to which schools and colleges have incorporated these competencies and diagnostic safety content within their curriculums.
In addition, nurses who were formally educated before these recommendations were introduced may not know their value and roles as members of the diagnostic team. Therefore, codified approaches to heighten diagnostic safety awareness and structured support from nurse educators and leaders are critical to leveraging nurses’ roles as essential participants in the diagnostic process.
This issue brief describes pragmatic approaches for nurse educators and leaders to convey the urgent need to improve diagnosis among their nurses and care teams and to guide nurses to embrace their leadership roles in the diagnostic process. Informed by the literature and professional experience, we offer action-oriented steps and learning strategies, including patient cases that facilitate discussion and promote problem solving, to recognize and encourage nurses as important contributors to reducing diagnostic errors and improving diagnostic safety.