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How Do Medication Errors Occur in Nursing Homes?

How Medication Errors in Nursing Can Compromise Patient Safety

Medication errors in nursing homes are medical errors, and they are common enough that the medical field has set an error rate.

According to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide website, nursing home facilities must have medication error rates that are below five percent.

Medical Error Definition: What Is a Medication Error?

Medication errors are inaccuracies made during medication preparation or administration. Errors either fail to follow a doctor's order, pharmaceutical manufacturing instructions or the medical field’s accepted standards for the particular medicine's use.

Typically, a nurse or nurse staff member will administer medication through a med pass, which means pushing a cart from resident to resident to dispense the medication. Depending on the states requirements, an unlicensed nursing staff member may be able to dispense medication under a nurse's general supervision. However, some states have stricter regulations, and nurses must directly dispense the medication.

What Are Some Medication Error Examples?

The following examples are the ways that administering medication can result in error:

  • Slicing or crushing medication that should not be divided or crushed. Capsules, tablets or other medications often have "do not crush" instructions.
  • Failing to provide adequate fluid with medications. Often medicines come with instructions that patients should take it with a required amount of fluid. Not drinking enough fluid can sometimes harm the patient.
  • Failing to take sufficient food or antacids. Some medicines must be taken with food. Others require patients to take an antacid before taking the medicine. Proper fluids, food and antacids instructions should be followed.
  • Failure to shake or mix the medication. When a staff member doesn't shake or mix the medicine, the patient may be at risk for receiving too much or too little of the medication. For example, insulin must be mixed without air bubbles prior to administering it.
  • Not following standard protocols for medications uses with ENFs (enteral nutritional formulas). The elderly often drink an ENF to supplement nutrition or when they are unable to eat very well. Specific guidelines and protocols exist for administering medication with ENFs. Patients may experience harm when staff members fail to follow proper guidelines.

Of course, more obvious medication errors would involve dispensing the wrong medication, giving the wrong dosage or failing to administer the medication to the patient at all.

If your loved one was harmed due to a medication error, we hope this information helps you to recognize it and get in touch with us.

Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP has extensive experience handling forms of medical malpractice such as medication errors in nursing homes. By discussing your situation in a free consultation, you can find out about the prospects of pursuing legal action.

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