Are safety measures taken to avoid a medication mistake?

Whether through an illness or injury, you ended up hospitalized. Nurses, doctors and other medical professionals come in and out of your room on a routine basis. Depending on your condition, you may not even know why they are there or what they are doing.

During your stay, you will more than likely need medications as part of your treatment and to aid in your recovery. If you aren't a doctor or nurse, you rely on the medical staff attending to you to make sure that you receive the proper medication in the proper dosage at the appropriate time.

What measures should hospital staff take to prevent a mistake?

When you receive a medication, you are seeing the last in a line of steps that lead to its administration. Several people are involved in you receiving even one medication, and without taking the proper steps to ensure your safety, you could suffer harm from a medication mistake. Below is a general outline of how the process should look:

  • After reviewing your medical history, current medical condition and current medications, your doctor should determine the type of medication needed, how often to administer it, the proper dosage and how long you should receive it.
  • Someone will then need to read the prescription and properly interpret it.
  • The pharmacist then checks for allergies and drug interactions before releasing the medication in the proper form and dosage.
  • Someone, usually a nurse, will then need to administer the medication to you in accordance with the doctor's instructions.

If there is a breakdown at any point during this process, you could suffer significant harm from a medication error. Administering medication requires substantial attention to detail. Some people have suffered significant adverse health events from a misplaced decimal point, the administration of the wrong medication and more.

Any number of issues could lead to a medication error. The doctor may not take the time to obtain a good history. The transcriber and/or interpreter of the prescription could make an error. The pharmacist could miss an allergy or drug-interaction problem. The nurse could give you the wrong dosage, administer the medication at the wrong time or give you the wrong medication.

What happens if you suffer harm from a medication mistake?

If you suffered an adverse health event due to a medication mistake, it could have a significant impact on your life, even if temporarily. The error could put you in a life-threatening situation that requires aggressive medical attention to correct. A medication mistake could change your life forever.

If that happens, you may have been the victim of substandard medical care. A thorough evaluation of your case could reveal that pursuing compensation through a medical malpractice claim would be appropriate.

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Vincent J. DeSalvo, Attorney at Law
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