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Medication errors and nursing negligence

Each year, an estimated 7,000 Americans die as a result of medication errors. While most hospitals currently have several methods to safeguard against the wrong or incorrect dosage of medication being administered, errors still occur with far too much frequency. These errors can be largely attributed to nurses who are typically entrusted with administering patients' medications.

Hospitals and medical centers are busy places with many distractions. A nurse's primary focus is to attend to their patients' needs and ensure they are comfortable and as pain-free as possible. A huge component of this is to provide the proper medication.

In recent years many hospitals have made great strides to improve the methods by which medications are coded and dispensed. Bar codes, electronic orders and pharmacy systems have all greatly improved the speed and accuracy by which medications are administered. Despite these advances, however, thousands of medication errors still occur.

A recent study was conducted to help identify issues surrounding medication and nursing errors. For the study, researchers looked at data from 82 medical-surgical units. They paid special attention to factors that may impact medication errors such as nursing staffing numbers, the unit's environment and the practices related to both intercepting and reporting nursing errors.

The study found that the majority of nurses employed effective methods to intercept potential medication errors. Nurses frequently checked medication orders against patients' medical charts, questioned medications and requested physicians rewrite orders that were not clear.

Employing these types of double-check policies helped nurses intercept medication errors and save patients' from injuries and potential death.

Source: Onc Live, "Medication Errors," Lisa Schulmeister, RN, Sept. 11, 2012

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