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What Medical Professionals Can Do to Prevent Medication Errors

Medication is one of the most common tools patients see in their medical care. The modern world has amazing medicines, providing comfort and recovery even in the face of conditions that would have been deadly only a generation or two ago. But most, if not all, medicines do not stop at making just one change in the body.

Medication side effects, if anticipated and accommodated, can be managed without suffering. But when a patient receives the wrong medicine, or the wrong dose, or when the side effects of multiple drugs compound each other, patients suffer. As such, nurses are being trained to identify and prevent adverse drug events.

Adverse Drug Events

According to RnCeus, a continuing education program for nurses, the preferred term is no longer "medication error" but "adverse drug event" (ADE). The purpose of the new name is to shift focus from blaming individuals who make a mistake to the systems that allow those mistakes to go unnoticed. Our use of the term here, from our perspective as medical malpractice attorneys, is absolutely not a dismissal of personal responsibility, but rather an acknowledgment of the role of systemic responsibility.

ADEs can be any “injury resulting from medical intervention related to a drug.” This includes, but is not limited to, specific cases of harm “directly caused by a drug at normal doses,” preventable issues like giving a patient the wrong prescription or dosage, unforeseen complications from drug side effects, and rare but known side effects that adversely affect patients.

Nursing Prevention

Nurses receiving training from RnCeus are given a number of tools to help avoid ADEs. Nurses serve a vital role in this matter, as it is estimated that they catch roughly half of all preventable ADEs before the patient receives the medication. The training provided by RnCeus falls under a few broad categories.

  • Knowledge: Nurses are urged to have information resources available, and to use them. This includes personal study of medications and individual patient cases, a willingness to seek help from other professionals including pharmacists, and portable reference materials.
  • Communications: Nurses are encouraged to practice and facilitate effective communication. This includes confirming confusing or unusual details with those writing prescriptions and pharmacists, writing in clear script, recording information immediately instead of relying on memory, and reporting all ADEs and cases of prevented ADEs.
  • Preparation and Administration: Nurses are advised to practice extra care in preparing and delivering medication. This includes confirming the patient’s identity, announcing the drug and dosage to patients before administering, and not disturbing nurses who are preparing medicine for delivery.

You should be able to trust doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals with your care. When that trust is broken, and the system fails to catch harmful mistakes, you need someone who will stand with you.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered due to an adverse drug event, contact us today to explore your options.