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3 reasons nurses make medication mistakes

February 28th, 2011 by – Marijke Durning

In nursing school, one of the most important things nursing students are taught is how to prevent medication mistakes. Whenever you give a medication, you must have the:

- Right patient

- Right medication

- Right dose

- Right time

- Right route

And yet, medication errors still happen. How is that?

1- Misinterpretation of the doctor’s order or an incorrect order

Doctors’ orders can be difficult to understand. Part of a nurse’s role when transcribing orders is to ensure the orders are correct. If she has any concerns or questions about an order, it is vital that she question the order rather than assuming or guessing.  However, mistakes aren’t always done because an order is misunderstood – sometimes the doctor makes a mistake. This is why the nurse, again, must be very prudent. By knowing the different types of medications she has to give and looking up those she doesn’t know, errors should become apparent.

2- Incorrect transcription of medication order

While transcribing orders, the nurse shouldn’t be uninterrupted, leaving him or her to concentrate on the task at hand. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and the nurse can become distracted and make an error in the transcription. Even when double checking, the nurse may not notice the mistake.

3- Break in the 5 Rights

Many nurses know that feeling – that feeling that hits as soon as they realize they’ve given the wrong medication to the wrong patient. The same happens when the nurse has picked up the wrong medication to give to the patient. Many errors happen when there’s a break in the 5 Rights, often due to inattention or distraction from other people while giving out medications.

These three reasons are preventable. We just have to remember to use the utmost attention when giving medications.

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Posted in On-the-Job Fears

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