drug administration

Errors, Cautions and Risks of Drug Administration

A nurse is held to certain expectations for administering medications. He must know about its Pharmacology, Drug indication, route, dosage, contraindications, side-effects and adverse reactions.

As nurses we should always be an advocate for safe medication practices. It is part of ethical responsibility to protect our patient’s well-being and at the same time safeguard us from a lawsuit.

5 Rights of Medication

As a rule every nurse should observe the 5 Rights of Medication to avoid errors. Following them can avoid them but that doesn’t mean it is airtight.

Right Patient- Before giving medication you are always told to check the patient’s ID. If she is conscious and alert, make him state his name. However, hearing the name you expect, misreading the name on his hospital tag could be a cause of medication error. It seems like an honest mistake but in the medical field a small mistake could cause big problems.

Right Medication- You should always check the medicine label when receiving it. As a medication intended for someone else or for some other purposes maybe the wrong strength or may cause side effects. Check the doctor’s order each time and that the instruction is current.

Right Dose- When a wrong dose is given due to a miscalculation on the prescriber or on the nurses’ end when double checking. An intelligible hand writing that could lead a mistake in carrying out an order, an error on the pharmacist side. A good rule for this is to check, recheck and double check.

Right Route- Given by the wrong route, some medications are fatal. If you’re unsure of the route, don’t administer the medication.

Right time- Always check the frequency of the ordered medication and double check that you are giving the ordered dose at the correct time. Always check when the last dose was given to be sure when the next is due.

Other errors could be on the part of patient as well and so patient education should also be observed by nurses. Teach you patients what her medications are for, how to take them properly, what side or adverse effects she should watch out for and what she needs to do when she is not getting the expected effect of the drug.

When all else fail in spite of your best efforts, don’t hesitate to report. Notify the physician right away and document properly what happened, what was the patient’s reaction and what actions you have taken. Fill out an incident report (according to you hospital policy). A well documented report is likely to help you if you will need to discuss the error in court. But of course, let us not hope that happens.


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