What is a Medication Error?
A medication error is an occurrence in which a mistake is made by a nurse, doctor or caregiver during the process of administering medication to a patient. Studies have shown that one in five elderly patients suffers from a medication error at some point during their stay at a nursing home. While many of these instances of medication errors may only lead to minor health consequences, some can lead to extreme medical complications and, sometimes, even death.
Examples of Medication Errors
Examples of medication errors that occur in nursing homes may include crushing or slicing medication that includes “DO NOT CRUSH” instructions, administering medication to a patient who hasn’t ingested enough fluid or nutrition prior to receiving the medication, overdose, underdose and a number of other errors that could lead to medical complications with patients.
Causes of Medication Errors
Medicine is dispensed to patients during a process known as a med pass. During this process, a registered nurse takes a cart through a nursing home and administers medication to each patient as ordered. Most medication errors occur during this process and these are the most common reasons they occur:
- Understaffed Nursing Homes- Many nursing homes are understaffed and this can lead to nurses feeling rushed and overlooking instructions for specific medical orders. This can also lead to maltrained employees administering medication.
- Negligence on Behalf of the Registered Nurse- This can often tie into the first reason. However there are very specific behaviors that fall under the category of negligence which include disregard for medication instructions as well as medication borrowing; a process in which nurses borrow medication from each other during a med pass due to disorganization which can lead to medication errors.
Ways to Combat Medication Errors Most facilities are held to regulatory standards of 5% or less in regard to medication errors permitted. Individual facilities are also doing their part in trying to combat medication errors by installing policies that require nurses to read back medical administration instructions prior to dispensing them to patients. Policy implementation will help address the issue, but the key to eliminating many of these errors starts with bringing more nurses into the workforce.