Nurses may be the last defense against medication errors

When you are admitted to the hospital, you expect to receive the care you need in order to get well. The last thing you expect is to end up in worse shape than when you went in, especially if it's due to a mistake on the part of a member of the medical staff supposedly providing you with the appropriate standard of care.

One of the ways in which you may end up suffering harm at the hands of a medical professional is through medication errors. Even with all of the new safeguards in place to prevent such errors, they still occur.

What nurses can do to prevent medication mistakes

While you remain hospitalized, it's possible that the nurses attending to you form the last line of defense between you and a medication mistake. This puts a tremendous responsibility on them to get it right. Some of the strategies they may employ to keep you free from harm include the following:

  • Nurses learn the five rights of medication administration. These rights include ensuring they have the right patient, the right medication, the right dosage, the right administration route and the right time.
  • When a new nurse comes on, or another nurse takes over, he or she should carefully review all medication orders and other information in a patient's chart.
  • If you end up transferred either within the hospital or to another medical facility, your medications should be reconciled.
  • Reading back medication orders out loud is another way of ensuring everything is correct.
  • Something as simple as placing a zero in front of a decimal point could save your life. There is a significant difference between "0.25 mg" and "25 mg."
  • Nurses should make sure they document everything. The more information that another nurse has, the less likely it is that a mistake could occur.
  • Nurses should know the policies, guidelines and regulations for the administration of medications. It may even help to keep a drug guide within reach.

Nurses should also feel as though they can ask questions regarding a medication order if they suspect an error. When nurses take these precautions, they increase the chances of avoiding a medication error. However, when they don't you could suffer significant health consequences.

If that happens, you may want to conduct an investigation to determine where the breakdown occurred and ask a Louisiana civil court to hold the parties you believe caused you harm liable for your financial losses and other damages.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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