It isn’t uncommon for professionals to often make mistakes. A British study revealed that some 850,000 medical errors happen annually. Similarly, an American survey showed that a million excess injuries occurred because of healthcare practitioners’ mistakes. According to 2021 statistics, FDA receives over 100,000 reports of merely medication errors. What are medication mistakes? They’re described as any incorrect dosage/amount of medication administered by healthcare professionals. Some of the most common medication mistakes include wrong/missed doses. Nurses – being the primary caregivers in most clinical settings – can heavily reduce the number of such errors taking place in our hospitals.
A nurse’s role in stopping medication mistakes
From rising fatalities/injuries to medical lawsuits – there are several drawbacks of medication errors. In 2016, a report showed that at least one medication mistake took place daily in our hospitals. Similar surveys have also revealed that your average patient may receive twenty medications every day. Healthcare practitioners should remain vigilant while administering drugs. It explains why nurses should carefully administer drugs to their patients since incorrect prescriptions can be lethal! Nurses must also enhance their endeavors to lessen these mistakes made by pharmacists. Here, we’ll explain some simple methods with which RNs can prevent errors to a pretty massive extent:
- Educate yourself
Nurses may seek digital learning options to enhance their medical proficiency. There are several online programs available to RNs for improving their academic standing. Nurses can pursue Doctor of Nursing Practice programs online to become more educated, thereby more cautious. Experience further bolsters your academic progress while making you less vulnerable to medication errors. We suggest getting yourself a DNP degree.
- Communicate effectively
Medical instructions pass through several hands, so it’s essential for staff to communicate mutually in an effective manner. Don’t allow a misread/misheard instruction to ruin a patient’s life! You must review medical directives properly to understand who the patient is, which drugs shall be given, and how much dosage is required. Most medication errors are caused by simple oversight that could’ve been resolved by proper communication. So, improve your communication capabilities as a nurse.
- Check the labeling
Unfortunately, many medication errors happen because drugs look similar! Nurses accidentally pick the wrong bottle because it shares the appearance of the correct medicine. So, reading the labeling and paying attention to its packaging can help RNs reduce medication mistakes. In 2007, it occurred that some pediatric patients overdosed when they received a high-alert drug named heparin. So, it was decided to secure this drug with bigger fonts, different colors, and tear-off cautionary labels.
- Double-check everything
Experts have also recommended double- or even triple-checking everything to avoid these errors. A nurse should double-check the dosage they administer, the patient’s identity, and applicable information properly. Read the example about heparin again; it shows that RNs must remember the names of high-alert medications. Showing caution by using redundancies (double-checking things) will prevent medication mistakes. Nurses shouldn’t stop being vigilant and suspicious about drugs!
- Educate the patient
A study shows that the education material patients receive isn’t comprehensible by non-specialists. It states that over 55% of these materials were moderately complex. So, nurses must increase the readability of these materials to prevent medication errors. When the patient’s conscious, teach them about the drugs you’re giving. So, it’ll empower the patient and let them stop RNs from committing a mistake. You can improve a patient’s self-advocacy skills by educating that patient effectively.
- Remember that zero
Sometimes, even minor errors lead to patient fatalities. For instance, people can misread “.25 mg” as “25 mg” easily. So, it’s essential to write that missing “0” to avoid such deathly confusion. Also, document everything properly in legible handwriting to prepare correct records. A nurse forgetting to document the dosage they are administering may result in the patient accidentally receiving another dosage. Hence, proper documentation makes medical procedures more life-saving.
- Avoid these mistakes
Finally, let’s discuss some common mistakes committed by RNs that lead to errors in medication. It’s been observed that some nurses assume that all drugs are chewable. Some medicines aren’t safe for chewing, while others shouldn’t be swallowed at all. It changes the way the patient’s body absorbs them. Also, cutting up pills isn’t safe unless recommended by a pharmacist.
There are many forms of medication mistakes made by healthcare professionals. They include incorrect prescriptions/preparations along with administering an unauthorized drug. Moreover, omissions, wrong timings, and giving medications to the wrong patient also happen in clinics/hospitals. It’s been reported that 64.55% of RNs have made medication errors. So, what steps can nurses take to prevent these mistakes? They can start by establishing proper medication procedures while creating accurate documentation when the dosages have been received. Experts recommend getting these things right, i.e., dose, drug, time, route, and patient. It can allow RNs to reduce these errors and potentially save lives.