Nurses have no room for mistakes when administering medications to patients. These drugs are intended to treat medical conditions but they may make things worst once they are given erroneously. Medication error can even lead to a patient’s death. Therefore, medication error is considered negligence in the field of nursing.
Nurses are competent and well-trained health care professionals. Their education is bombarded with both theories and application. Their knowledge and skills are molded by the intense pressure in their hospital experiences. However, they are humans and are susceptible of committing mistakes; no matter how careful they are. I am not saying that errors are acceptable considering the factor of being human. Nursing deals with lives and a single drop of mistake can end a person’s life. Thus, it is a must for nurses to identify the common medication errors in order to prevent them.
Common Medication Errors and Preventive Measures
Administering medication to the wrong patient.
In doing any procedure including medication administration, it is a must to identify the patient. It is one of the basics and it is taught repeatedly how to identify the patient properly. It does not require too much strength. All you need to do is ASK and when you ask DO IT RIGHT! Do not state the patient’s name yourself like “Are you Mike Greenwood?” Patients who are in pain, sleepy, irritable or those in such uncomfortable condition have the tendency to just nod or say “yes” without hearing the question right. Always let the patient state his/her name by saying “What is your name sir/ma’am?” Patients find this annoying most of the time, particularly if they’ve been on the unit for several days. Just let them know that it is the best way to ensure the right patient receives the right drug. If the patient has no verbal output, check and compare his/her identification wrist band with the medication ticket or chart.
Administering the wrong dose of medication to the patient.
Doctors usually compute the dosage and write it down on the medical order. However, make sure that you remember the formula for drug dosage computation as well. This will help you recheck the right dose if the doctor’s order seems unusual. Likewise, familiarize the usual dosages both for pediatric and adult patients. Children have lower doses of drugs compared to adults. Recheck the measurement of drugs, even those that are prepared by the pharmacists. Again, human error is possible and it is unpredictable. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Administering the right medication but at the wrong route.
Medications have various preparations. There are tablets, capsules, liquid, powder and suppositories. They can be administered per orem (mouth), intravenous, intramascular, topical and per rectum. There are medications that have the same names and dosage but differ in preparation. Thus, the route of administration also varies. For instance, the drug paracetamol has tablet and syrup preparations. Both of these must be administered orally. It also has a liquid form contained in ampules. This can be given intravenously or intramuscularly. Last but not the least is the suppository preparation, which is inserted through the anus/rectum. Make sure to read the medical order carefully. Compare it with the medication chart and the drug available before administration.
Administering the medication with wrong timing.
Timing in drug administration must be followed with full caution. There are medications that require to be given before meals while others are administered after meals. The timing of giving medications also depends on the side effects of the drug and their half-life. Those that cause drowsiness or dizziness are mostly administered during sleeping hours like Benadryl. Moreover, doctors indicate the timing of administration. The usual timings are every four hours, every six hours, every eight hours, every twelve hours, every twenty-four hours, once a day, and stat (now). But, the specific time of the day that medications are given also varies from every health care institution.
Administering the wrong medication
There are thousands of medications and some of them look alike. They have different classifications but their packages may look the same. Therefore, make sure to check as many times as possible the name of the available drug and compare it with the doctor’s order and medical chart. For instance, some prednisone tablets looks so similar with furosemide tablet. Other medications sound alike or even spell alike but are different in terms of classification like Dopamine and Dobutamine.
Again, medications are intended to cure diseases or alleviate symptoms. They become efficient mode of treatment once administered properly. However, they can be fatal once given the wrong way. To sum it up, remember the 5 R’s of drug administration to avoid medication error: (1) right patient, (2) right dose, (3) right drug, (4) right route and (5) right timing.
Nitin Ajwani likes networking with health professionals and discussing
© 2012, Filipino Nurses. All rights reserved. DISCLAIMER: The accuracy of all articles contained in this website are the responsibility of their respective authors. All articles are for informational purposes only and are NOT intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The owner of this site disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on these information. If you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician. If you feel ill, please seek medical attention immediately.