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Medication Errors in Nursing: What Can be Done?

By: Anapol Weiss

Nurses are integral in the prevention of medication errors. They are directly involved in the prescription process including advising on dosages as well as detecting errors and taking corrective action before a medication is administered to a patient. While they provide a safety defense against hospital medication errors, nurses can also make dangerous mistakes that have deadly consequences for patients.

Drug errors are among the most common medical mistakes in the U.S. In addition to the life-threatening dangers they can pose, medication errors result in a conservative estimate of $3.5 billion per year in added medical costs – without taking into account lost wages or the additional health care costs stemming from the resulting injuries.

One third of the medication errors that harm patients occur during the nurse administration phase, according to a study published in the journal Nursing Standard. These mistakes may be due in part to the long shifts and resulting fatigue. In fact, researchers in the study found the likelihood of errors is three times higher when staff members work 12.5 or more hours in a shift. They also noted that nurses are two and a half times more likely to burn out and experience job dissatisfaction when regularly working ten-hour shifts or longer.

The study’s researchers suggest nurses and hospitals take action to combat the risk of errors. Although employers are bound by policies and statutory requirements to limit nurses’ shift length and hours worked per week, the researchers urge that individual practitioners are responsible for practicing within those boundaries to be safe. Further, hospitals could develop a method of minimizing the frequency of interruptions, which can also be a big contributing factor in medication mistakes. Finally, the researchers recommend nurses have convenient access to drug administration policies and guidelines.

Patients are the ones who must suffer the consequences when nurses and hospital staff make dangerous medication errors. For decades, the medical malpractice lawyers at Anapol Weiss have been advocating for people who were killed or injured by preventable medical errors. If it happened to you or a family member, we can help. Contact our firm for assistance.

And to learn more about steps you can take to help prevent prescription drug errors, download our free infographic below.