Medical errors are the major concern for public health. As a matter of fact, medical errors are undoubtedly the most common type of incidents affecting patient safety worldwide. They are the reasons for negative outcomes, cause distress to nurses, and create huge expenses for healthcare facilities (Cheragi et al., 2013). As a result, the issue of medical errors is certainly the most significant and extensively scrutinized in healthcare today. Regardless of the significant advances that have been made in healthcare system, medical errors relatively remain common and represent a prospect for further advancement in this field. Therefore, the essay will focus on medication errors from the perspective of nursing practice. Nurses can prevent such problems, that continue to be a significant public health issue.
The administration of medicine is among the most critical responsibilities of nurses, since the associated errors can have unpredictable and serious consequences for the patients. Even though mistakes with medication prescription, doses, and other issues, can be made by any healthcare professional, medication errors made by nurses are the most common. It can be explained by the fact that nurses perform the medical orders and spend approximately forty percent of their time in the healthcare facilities delivering medication to their patients (Cheragi et al., 2013). Therefore, these healthcare workers are the most subjected to stress and legal issues associated with medication errors.
To understand medication errors committed by nurses, it is important to differentiate between the different types of mistakes. One of the typical errors is the incorrect administration of intravenous fluids or infusions. It suggests giving the medicine at the rate different from that ordered, using wrong dilution, or even failure to wipe the site of injection with alcohol. It is one of the most frequent types of re-counted medication errors. A research study conducted in a pediatric hospital revealed that 61 % of medication blunders were associated with intravenous injections (Cheragi et al., 2013). It is worth asserting that complications of improper administration of intravenous drugs are more severe than for errors made with other techniques. Cases of death, as well as critical injuries, following improper intravenous drug administration have been reported (Cheragi et al., 2013). The second common mistake is the omission error, which takes place when a nurse fails to administer the prescribed dose. The third one is wrong dose error, where a nurse gives the amount of medicine that is different from the ordered one (Efstratios, 2017). The fourth mistake is the unordered drug error, in which a nurse administers a drug that was not prescribed. The fifth problem is the wrong form error, which means that the nurse gives a dose in a different form from that recommended. The sixth type of error is the wrong time error, whereby a nurse administers a dose way after or before it is due (Cohen, 2015). The seventh common issue is the wrong route error, which suggest the improper way of medication administration by the nurse (Cohen, 2015). The eighth mistake is deteriorated drug error that happens, when a nurse administers an expired, chemically, or physically damaged drug. The ninth error is the wrong dose preparation mistake, which may include instances when nurses give an oral suspension without juddering the container.
Medication mistakes committed by nurses appear due to various reasons. Lack of sufficient pharmacological knowledge is the most significant factor underlying medication errors. Besides, the use of abbreviations in prescriptions, as well as similarities in the names of drugs, have been attributed as the principal reasons for medication errors. In addition, environmental distracters, such as lack of independent rooms for medication preparation, nonstandard departments, noise, and crowding, that make nurses lose concentration contribute to medication errors (Pournamdar & Zare, 2016). Furthermore, illegibility of doctor prescriptions, inaccurate drug calculations, and variation in packaging styles of medication also cause the related errors. Moreover, personal reasons, such as absentmindedness, fatigue, stress, discontentment with job and place of work, and the shortage of work consciousness result in medication errors (Ehsani et al., 2013). Last but not least, other factors that indirectly lead to mistakes include the shortage of nurses and time (Pournamdar & Zare, 2016). Therefore, these are plenty of reasons, which explain the occurrence of medical errors, and many of them are related to insufficient working conditions.
It is astounding that medical faults are the third most prevalent cause of death in the United States of America, with heart disease being ranked first and cancer the second. Recent data points out that two 251 thousand deaths annually in the United States are the result of medical errors (Presant, 2017). It indicates that efforts taken to save patients’ lives do not achieve their goal. In a recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of America's best medical facility, revealed that 44 % of all surgical procedures between 2013 and 2014 had medication errors or unintentional medicine side effects (Presant, 2017). They were caused by inappropriate labeling or dosage, or failure to administer the prescribed drugs. Astonishingly, the study further revealed that there was a drug error in one of every 20 medications, and approximately one of every two surgeries (Presant, 2017). Therefore, medication errors should be the major concern for every single person.
The reporting of medication errors in the United States is not sufficient. Daniel (2016) points out that mortality rates directly related to medical mistakes have not been acknowledged in any standardized system for gathering national statistics. It is explained by failure to recognize medical faults as the reason for death and hence, they are omitted in national health statistics (Daniel, 2016). Besides, nurses fear to report medication errors due to the ensuing penalty or legal aspects. It is, therefore, possible to assert that better reporting of medical errors should be executed to prevent the associated adverse outcomes.
In order to lessen or even get rid of medication errors, nurses ought to be acquainted with the literature and approaches to prevent them. One important strategy is improving communication. Open channels of communication should be encouraged between healthcare providers to prevent from misconceptions (Brunetti & Suh, 2012). Poor communication contributes to medication errors and can have devastating consequences within the healthcare system. The SBAR method is an effective communication strategy, which is recommended for resolution of the suggested problem in healthcare system (Anderson, 2012). The second approach is the continuous education of nurses (Björkstén et al., 2016). It entails having medicine information readily available to them. Accessibility of data is essential for infrequently used drugs or non-formulary medicines, since nurses may be unaware of their use. Thirdly, the use of automated information systems is also essential for reduction in medication errors rates. The use of computerized provider order entry, for instance, was found useful in reducing the occurrence of medication errors in the inpatient setting. One research study revealed that the possibility of error was reduced by 48 %, when a prescription was processed through the computerized provider order entry (World Health Organization, 2016). Therefore, there are several ways, in which the incidence of medication errors and related negative outcomes for the patients can be reduced.
Therefore, nurses have a crucial role in prevention of medical errors, which are the serious problem in healthcare system. Medical faults have been identified as the third leading cause of death in the United States. There are different types of medication errors, such as inappropriate administration of infusions, omission error, wrong form error, and wrong time error among others. The mistakes take place for various reasons, such as shortfalls in performance and knowledge of nurses. It is however, unfortunate that the reporting of medical faults has been inadequate in the country. The problems need to be acknowledged and addressed to improve the safety of patients.
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