Common Medication Administration Errors
Medical administration errors account for billions of dollars worth of damage annually. To err is human, which means, unfortunately, these things are a part of life. However, that doesn’t mean that healthcare providers can’t take steps to reduce them. By being aware of the common medication administration errors, doctors and clinicians can protect patients.
Most healthcare providers are aware of the “Five Rights” of medication administration: “the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route, and the right time.” Because they are tried and true, we will use them as a guide to explain the most common medication administration errors.
This issue often results from a communication breakdown. Usually, it is as simple as someone writing a prescription poorly, making it difficult to read what medication the patient is supposed to receive. It may also occur if a prescriber uses a non-standard shorthand to refer to one medication that looks similar to another. Having the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist verbally confirm the medication can help reduce this issue.
Incorrect dosage may also occur because of a breakdown in written communication, such as someone writing numbers illegibly. But rather than filling a patient’s IV bag with the wrong amount of medication, what often happens is a patient is either given too many or too few doses. Hospital staff can remedy this by displaying medication logs in the patients’ room.
Patient identity being mistaken is most commonly an issue when patients are unconscious, disoriented, or nonverbal and are, therefore, unable to confirm their own identity. It is mainly a problem in the chaos of the ICU. Most hospitals display a patient’s name in the room. But as an added check, many hospitals are employing a strategy of using patient barcodes to confirm a patients’ identity.
Sometimes, a patient must receive specific medications at the correct time for them to be effective, such as before a patient goes to bed or an hour after a meal. However, when nurses must juggle so many patients’ needs, timing can potentially slip through the cracks.
Hospitals should avoid a blanket “30-minute rule” for all medication administration, as this puts undue pressure on nurses, increasing the likelihood of errors. Instead, focus these types of rules on the medications that require them.
Administering a medication through a different route than intended also often occurs because of a mix-up in communication. Someone may mislabel a medication or misread a prescription. It may also occur because of a mix-up in medical supplies. One frequent error is not correctly labeling IV tubing, resulting in its use for enteral feeding instead. Labeling equipment is as crucial as labeling the medications that they carry.
Fortunately, technology has made the job of healthcare professionals easier and much safer for patients across the board. Acquiring the newest technology in a hospital will always play a role in maintaining a high standard of patient safety.