Know the 5 Rs before your nurse gives you medication

Taking medicine can be downright nasty, especially if it is an oral medication that tastes bad. If you have to take more than one type of medicine on an ongoing basis, it can be challenging to keep the doses and timing of it all in line. Medication error is definitely something you'll want to avoid because even a seemingly minor mistake can cause serious injury or, in some cases, death.

You can take comfort in knowing that Louisiana nurses and those in other states are specially trained to avoid medication errors. Most nurses are familiar with a coded system known as, "The Five Rs." This is a system of checks and balances that helps medical teams keep patients who take medicine as safe as possible. In a perfect world, medication errors would never occur. In reality, however, nurses who disregard protocol often make mistakes that have disastrous results.

The first R has to do with who you are

Any time a nurse wants to give you medicine, she or he is supposed to check (and double-check) to make sure you are the correct patient. Even if a particular nurse knows you by name because you've been in the hospital for a while, he or she should still confirm your identity as the right patient for the medication in hand.

Nurse should also confirm you are taking the right medicine

It doesn't do any good if a nurse has the right patient but gives you the wrong medication. In some circumstances, this type of error can be deadly. The second R in the Five R system is to make sure the nurse gives you the correct medication.

The next Rs confirm dosage, time and form

After your nurse makes sure you are the right patient with the right medication, he or she must still establish that you are receiving the correct dose at the proper time via the correct means. For instance, are you supposed to take an oral version of the medication or receive it by syringe? How much do you get? How often?

Nurses are responsible for your care

These are all questions that nurses can easily answer by checking your medical records and your doctor's orders. Nurses must also communicate with other nurses, such as when changes of shifts occur, to make sure everyone is on board with the Five R system and doing their jobs correctly.

If a nurse doubts whether the dosage you're about to receive is correct but doesn't check the medication instructions to confirm, that nurse could be deemed negligent if you suffer injury because of a medication error.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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