Nursing homes are trusted to provide housing and care to thousands of elders throughout the US. Even at the most reputable and reliable nursing homes prescription medication errors can occur. Luckily, most of these instances don’t end in death, but patients’ conditions can become severe leading to hospitalization and long-lasting injury.
What causes prescription errors?
There are four main reasons for prescription errors in nursing homes, knowledge-based, rule-based, action-based, or memory-based malpractice.
- Knowledge-based: knowledge-based errors occur when a medical professional does not have enough information on a patient and might not know their allergies, other medications, health history, or diet.
- Rule-based: when a nurse or doctor purposely or accidentally doesn’t follow the rules of how a medication should be administered. This can happen when a nurse is fatigued, confused, trained improperly, or doesn’t understand how the prescription should be made or given out.
- Action-based: A medical professional might have all the proper information but still make a mistake, i.e. picking up the wrong bottle or misreading a label.
- Memory-based: When staff is overworked or fatigued, they can administer medication more than once or not at all, this can cause serious harm to patients.
What kind of prescription errors are there?
Although some prescription errors might seem minor, they can lead to serious health issues and injury. Common medication mishaps include giving the incorrect dosage, administering the medication wrong, not monitoring a patient for the proper amount of time, giving improper strength or expired medication, and documenting the administration wrong.
How to prevent a prescription error:
The Institute of Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has a list of actions that can be taken to eliminate as many prescription mistakes as possible. They are as follows:
- Patient Information: Medical staff should verify patients’ age, height, weight, and date of birth to ensure they are receiving the proper medication.
- Drug Information: All staff involved in dispensing medication should have access to all current information about the drug and any protocol around how it is to be given out.
- Adequate Communication: Keeping communication between nurses, doctors, and pharmacists clear and concise is imperative.
- Drug Packaging and Labeling Nomenclature: There should be clear and legible labels on every medication with name and dosage.
- Medication Storage, Stock Standardization, and Distribution: By limiting access to high quantities of floor-stock prescriptions, distributing medications efficiently, and decreasing access to high-alert drugs, many incidents can be avoided.
- Drug-Device Acquisition, Use, and Monitoring: There are devices in nursing homes that help administer medications, these should be monitored and checked regularly for any flaws.
- Environmental Factors: When medication is being distributed, there should be little room for distraction and enough light that things can be read clearly.
- Staff Education and Competency: This is especially important when new medications are brought into a nursing home. It is important for staff to know all information about a drug and the rules around its administration. There should be regular training and protocol reviews.
- Patient Education: It is important for the patient to know as much information about their medication as possible. Everything from the name, the dosage, what it’s for, and what the side effects might be. This can be helpful in catching errors before medication is ingested.
Who is held accountable if there is a prescription error?
Nursing homes are to be held accountable for medical malpractice if there is enough evidence to support a case. If you or a loved one believes they have experienced medication errors and have suffered injuries from them, please reach out to Larson and Gallivan Law, PLC, and we can help you with your claim.