Medication Errors Decrease When Quality of Nurses’ Environment Increases

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The greatest shame of medication errors in Kentucky hospitals is that they can be prevented. Increasing evidence indicates that nurses who work in a positive environment catch medication errors frequently before they can harm patients.

Survey Shows… described the latest study supporting this theory, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative, which was conducted at the Rutgers University College of Nursing in Newark, New Jersey. Linda Flynn, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN, was the lead author of the study.

Flynn and her colleagues took a survey of 686 staff nurses in 82 medical-surgical units at 14 acute care teaching hospitals in New Jersey. The nurses were asked about their practice environment, using the Practice Environment Scale of Nursing Work Index. The research team then compared practice environment and staffing levels with the following types of medication errors:

  • Prescribing,
  • Transcribing,
  • Dispensing, and
  • Administration.

The team discovered a strong link between practice environment and interception of errors. “A better environment was associated with better medication safety practices, and nurses’ better medication safety practices were associated with fewer errors,” Flynn remarked. The team’s findings were published in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship.

What Are the Components of a Positive Practice Setting?

Flynn described the attributes of a positive nursing environment as “intangible, but so important.” Some of the components include the following:

  • A supportive manager;
  • Collegial relationships with physicians
  • Enough resources to do the job;
  • Staff development; and
  • Opportunities to be involved in the decision-making process.

Nurses’ Error Interception Strategies

Part of the research involved questioning nurses about how they prevent making errors with medications. This is what the nurses said they do:

  • At the beginning of their shift, check the medication list against the original order.
  • Speak up and clarify orders with the physicians.
  • Determine the rationale for each medication, and consider whether it is still needed.

Mary A. Dolansky, R.N., Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She emphasized, “If nurses have a better work environment and are not in chaos or short on time, they have a moment to critically think. That helps to reduce errors.

“In nursing practice environments that don’t encourage critical thinking, and just want the nurse to do the task, [the nurse] won’t feel empowered to stop, pause, and question.”

Medication errors in Louisville can ruin lives. If you have been injured because of a Kentucky medication error, contact the Louisville medication error attorneys at Gray and White Law. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 and set up a FREE, no-obligation, confidential consultation.