Medication is an integral part of the Nursing Process. And Nurses are expected to know about any medications they administer: their indications and contraindications, right dosage, route of administration, side effects and adverse reactions -all these to avoid medication errors.
What is Medication Error? According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP) a medication error is “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer. Such events may be related to professional practice, health care products, procedures, and systems, including prescribing; order communication; product labeling, packaging, and nomenclature; compounding; dispensing; distribution; administration; education; monitoring; and use.”
However, knowledge about the drugs is not enough to prevent medication error. To prevent erroneous drug administration here is a run-through of things you should always be alert with.
Patient mix-ups – patient names can cause an error. Patient mix-up is uncommon but possible. Make sure to check your patients ID/tag before giving medication and if your patient is conscious and alert ask him to state his name.
Medication mix ups- Always check your prescription label carefully to be sure that that you have the right medication. Some bottles are easily mixed up because they look similar so to avoid this check the label every time you grab a bottle to take a dose.
Wrong Dosage- When given orders, don’t just rely on your doctors’ math. Calculate the dosage yourself to make sure it is right.
Unclear orders – If you don’t understand a medication order, don’t administer the drug. This is common to verbal or over the phone orders. Written orders are not infallible either. Illegible handwriting, unfamiliar abbreviations, misplaced zeros or decimal points, and incomplete orders can lead to a medication error.
By law, you are expected to refuse an unclear drug order. So, always remember “when in doubt, ask.”
Patient Errors- If a patient made a medication error because of lack of understanding this is not entirely his fault. As a nurse, it is also your responsibility to educate your patient. Encourage them to ask questions. Explain why they are taking the medication and discuss to them what they should watch out for and what to in case of adverse effects.
If there has been a medication error document what happened and write a thorough incident report. Medication error is avoidable but it is a daily challenge. Always be alert and follow these strategies as it enhance your patient’s welfare and reduce your legal risks.