Nursing: Front line medical error prevention

William Woods Undergraduate

Based on data from a 2013 NIH report, it is estimated that 440,000 deaths result from medical errors every year. Although not all medical errors result in death, another NIH study showed that 19.1% of medical errors are medication administration errors. Nurses, doctors and pharmacists continue to seek ways to reduce these errors — as well as those associated with equipment-related injuries, falls, and infections.

Data shows that nurses who obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing report better patient outcomes generally.

What do nurses have to say about medical error prevention?
Nurses have noted that patient-staff interaction has changed over the years, which poses a challenge to medical error prevention. In the AMN Healthcare Education Services News network, Kim Maryniak, PhDc, MSN, RNC-NIC acknowledged that the guides that were once in place to prevent medical error, such as the five rights of medication use, are not sufficient and must be updated. The length of patient stays in hospitals and other facilities has changed and is a factor that nurses have been considering.

New to Nursing?
The statistics may be startling, but nurses that are new to the field can find ample resources. Tapping the knowledge of experienced nurses and keeping up with advances in the field will aid in prevention.

5 Medical Error Prevention Tips for Early Career Nurses:

  1. Form a good relationship with a nursing administrator. Nursing administrators should encourage nurses to report medical errors. They should also encourage nurses to revisit prevention methods. If you are a nurse and you are concerned about medical errors and what is being done in your institution to prevent them, you should reach out to nursing administrators and ask how they can help create a prevention-ready environment.
  2. Utilize prevention-savvy drug guides and databases. Drug guides provide information about medication if you have concerns about route, dosage, and drug interactions. Barcode systems have also been established to match patients with their prescriptions. In addition, there is a published list of abbreviations that medical professionals should not use and a system of labeling called TALLman lettering to avoid confusion between medications with similar names.
  3. Carefully document everything. When a nurse documents everything as necessary, it ensures that other nurses and medical workers who have that patient’s files will have sufficient information to prevent medical error. It also functions as a record to refer to if an error does occur; nurses can then track what mistake was made and act accordingly.
  4. Keep up to date with equipment and procedures. To prevent equipment injuries or infections, nurses must be trained to work with medical equipment and renew these trainings frequently. If you do not know how to operate equipment or you do not remember your training, do not operate the equipment and ask for assistance.
  5. Involve your patients. Nurses should confirm that patients understand their treatment plans. Before that, nurses should encourage patients to share information that may affect their treatment, such as medical conditions, other medicines or alternative medicines they may be taking, to prevent harmful medication administration errors. Nurses should also encourage patients to track themselves as they take medication and reach out if anything seems out of the ordinary.

Continuing education is an option for nurses that would like to prevent medical errors. Nurses who obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing report better patient outcomes. At William Woods University, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is available online for registered nurses.

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