Medical Research Papers: Medication Safety

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November 15, 2013

Medication Safety and Impact of Medication Errors on the Healthcare Industry

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Background Information

The institute of medicine (IOM) in 2006 reported that between 380,000 and 450,000 of preventable adverse drug events (ADEs) are experienced in hospitals annually, with the largest proportion of events related to prescribing and administration of medication. Despite the high number and intensity of the training and subsequent vetting that medical professionals undergo, yet healthcare is the most dangerous sector in the world. This state requires an observer to consider the level of complexity of medical practice in order to have a deep insight into this concern. Cima and Clarke (2012) argue that a frontline medical practitioner encounters new medications, new procedures, new research evidence and new technology to integrate in practice. Patients, on the other hand, are increasingly becoming complicated requiring a proportionate increase in diversity of health care workers. Nevertheless, delivering dependable care has never been more challenging than it is now. This paper seeks to investigate medication safety and the effects of medication errors on the healthcare industry. In particular, it will focus on the role nurses play in maintaining safety of medication and their contribution to alleviating the effects of medication errors on the industry.

Even if most medications errors do not produce serious harm to patients, certain medications carry a higher risk of threat when prescribed or administered in error compared to others, as they may cause very serious clinical outcomes. Medical expert identify them as high-alert medications and demand special concentration from medical practitioners.

Classification of Medication Errors

Most avoidable harm to patients currently is attributable to unsafe acts of the medical practitioners themselves. According to Cima and Clarke (2011), unsafe acts can be classified as either procedural violations or human errors. Procedural violations refer to reckless behaviors of medical practioners that are deliberate. Human errors, on the other hand, refer to inadvertent acts that belong to the subcategories such as lapses, mistakes, and slips.

The experiences at the overall care facilities are that human errors alone are not accountable for most medications errors, neither are they caused by deliberate violations of proper procedures solely. Instead, medication errors often occur because of somewhat integration of human error and deviation from proper procedure. This condition describes state in which a provider was undertaking an aspect of care based on what seemed logical for him to do at that time to finish a duty to the patient (Cima & Clarke, 2012).

Causes of Medication Errors

Patient safety specialists argue that medications errors are caused by a repertoire of factors, although some major causes have been identified. First, poor communication accounts for some of the medication errors. Poor communication comes in different facets, including partial patient information, miscommunication of medication orders, or illegible handwriting. Second, ambiguity in names of product, medical abbreviations, or dosing units has also been associated with medication error. Third, lack of standard labeling has been associated with the same. Fourth, environmental factors, including lighting, noise, heat, and interference also have been linked to medication errors. Lastly, patient misuse of prescribed medication due to poor understanding of the instructions for medication use also constitutes medication error.

Role of Nurse in Medication Safety

The technique of preventing medication errors and addressing their causes requires in addition to vigilance, consistent and double-checking across the entire management of medication process. Worth of note, the goal of patient safety must be the basis for management of medication.

In light of the nurses, the goal of patient safety must be fulfilled in liaison with other professionals in other disciplines, in particular physician and different prescribers, pharmacist, and nursing peers. Regardless of increasing consistency of drug ordering, bar coding and computerized drug delivery systems, nurses should be at ease raising concerns and requesting for verifications concerning orders that confuse them. Nurses have a unique role in thwarting medication errors as they are at the receiving end of the treatment process, even if members in the other discipline can err through the chain of steps in process of managing medication.

Because nurses are the last providers who come between the patient and the medication, they must be familiar with an ever-dynamic array of medication, especially high alert medications such as chemotherapeutic agents. They must be intensely informed of every dimension of drug safety, including safe dosages, safe and suitable diluents, adverse effects of medication, signs of overdosing, and mirror image medications (Cima & Clarke, 2012).

On top of the direct involvement in sustaining medication safety, nurses can also contribute to safety indirectly by involving patients and their families. Nurses must be ready and competent to educate patients and their family members concerning medication regimen. In this regard the responsibility borne by nurses is weighty, and their role in medication safety is a demanding one that requires zeal and zest.

Prevention of medication errors

Preventing medication errors is not an easy task given the given the growing complexity of the healthcare sector. Nurses are positioned at the sharp end of medication errors sicne they are the main health care professionals responsible for administering medication to hospitalized patients (Clifton-Koeppel, 2008).

Medication Error Reporting

Offering a safe culture that sustains reporting of error and consider staff fairly in an error event is a continuing process. On top of the safety culture policy and training offerd to avert occurrence of ME, many healthcare organziations are endevoring to employ the fundamentals of a just culture.

With reference to a position statement on a topic, recently implemented by the American Nursing Association (ANA), it recognizes that a single care provider should not be held responsible for failure of a system as it is beyond their immediate control. The topic, A Just Culture, acknowledges that separate or integrated errors signify connections between the health system and practitioners. Nevertheless, as opposed to a culture that propagates no blame as its main principle, a Just Culture does not accept deliberate disregard of obvious risks to patients or gross misdemeanors. This misdemeanor can occur in the form of faking a patient’s record, executing professional tasks while intoxicated…”

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