People make mistakes; it’s part of the human condition. Often, mistakes can be corrected without being disclosed, and no harm is done.

When medication errors are hidden, though, the consequences can cause a great deal of harm—even death.

How Do Medication Errors Occur?

A number of scenarios may lead to a nurse administering the wrong drug or the wrong dosage, giving it at the wrong time, or missing doses. Here are some possible reasons, cited by Nursing Times.net:

  • unclear verbal orders;
  • illegible doctor’s handwriting of the scrip;
  • distractions, such as being called away in the middle of preparing a dose;
  • nurses’ fatigue, caused by erratic working hours, stress, and understaffing; and
  • incomplete patient records accompanying a move to a new care setting.

What Types of Drugs Are High Risk?

Certain categories of medications are considered high risk and are more dangerous when not taken correctly, including the following:

  • anticoagulants;
  • anesthetics;
  • chemotherapy drugs;
  • intravenous (IV) infusions;
  • methotrexate;
  • opiates;
  • potassium chloride; and
  • injections.

Why Aren’t Medication Errors Always Reported?

People don’t like to admit they’ve made a mistake; it’s a blow to their self-esteem. Medical professionals often are reluctant to disclose their mistakes because they are afraid of being reprimanded by management, as well as of seeing their colleagues’ reactions.

Although in the past, health professionals were disciplined for making errors, the medical field has been moving more toward an attitude of understanding what happened and preventing it from happening again. Rather than censure a nurse who has made a medication error, staff members examine the circumstances leading up to the mistake. In this way, weaknesses in the system are identified, and solutions can be found.

For the same reasons, near misses should be reported. A situation might be a near miss this time, but it could be a deadly incident the next time. Changes that come about because of reporting a close call may just save someone’s life.

Except in rare instances, medication errors are only mistakes, not crimes. Rather than focus on the person who made the mistake, health care professionals must focus on any potential harm done to the patient, remedy the situation, and monitor the patient closely. Then they should work on fixing the system that made the error possible.

If you or someone you love has been injured because of a medication error, you may have a Kentucky medication error case. Contact Gray and White Law at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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