How to Avoid Drug Errors
In a profession like ours where lives are at stake, there is no room for mistake. That’s why we nurses must always be alert and aware of what we do. Unlike return demonstrations in nursing school, we don’t have the luxury of making mistakes. Everything must be done accurately and things must be considered meticulously.One single mistake and you put your patient’s safety in danger. We don’t always get a second chance, thus, we must strive to do things right the first time.
Yes, we have tons to do in so little time, but that doesn’t excuse us from committing errors in the clinical area especially when administering medications. It is vital for all nurses to become acquainted with several strategies to prevent or reduce the likelihood of medication errors. Below are some tips to help nurses avoid drug errors when on duty at the clinical area:
Follow the five R’s of medication administration
It may seem cliché to some already, but reviewing the 5 Rights is a must when administering medications to patients, may they be oral, intravenously, topical and many others. These include the right patient, right drug, right dose, right time, and right route. Remember, they are there for a reason.
Always live in the present when administering medications. Do not let your mind wander and stay focused on the task at hand. Avoid distractions and concentrate on the administration process. If there happens to be distractions that you can’t avoid, let’s say when someone tries to talk to you (i.e., the physician), it’s best to stop the process. Resume the process once you’re done talking with others so you can give it 100% of your attention.
Ask when in doubt
If you seem to be doubting something, let’s say a questionable order of dosage of a certain drug, never hesitate to clarify. It’s always best that you’re 100% of the drug you are administering.
Double check, or even triple check procedures
As a nurse on the incoming shift, always review all new orders to ensure that each patient’s order is noted and transcribed correctly on the physician’s order and the medication administration record (MAR) or the treatment administration record.
Have the physician (or another nurse) read it back.
Always read back and verify medication orders given verbally or over the phone to ensure the ordered medication is transcribed correctly.
Place a zero in front of the decimal point
Decimal points can sometimes be confusing. 0.25mg can sometimes be confused as 25 mg. To make sure that no confusion will occur when it comes to drug dosages, always place a zero in front of the decimal point (i.e., 0.25 mg and not .25 mg).
Ensure proper storage of medications for proper efficacy
Those that need to be refrigerated must be kept in the fridge to maintain efficacy, while those medications that should be kept at room temperature should be stored accordingly. Proper storage of drugs is as important as proper administration.
Complete documentation is a must in nursing especially in drug administration. A lack of proper documentation can lead to an error. Remember, if it was not documented, it wasn’t done. When documenting, include proper medication labeling, legible documentation, or proper recording of administered medication.