Reducing Your Risk of Medication Errors Can Protect Your Nursing License from Suspension and Revocation
Of all the errors that nurses make in their practice, those related to medications are some of the most common. Sadly, when a nurse makes such a mistake, it can place their license in jeopardy. Learn how to reduce your risk of medication errors, which can ultimately decrease your chances of an investigation with the Texas Board of Nursing (BON), and discover how an experienced attorney can help protect your nursing license if an error and investigation do occur.
Understanding How Medication Errors Occur
Most medication errors begin with a failure to document or failure to properly document. Even if the case is truly only a documentation error, the Board raises the allegations to include possible diversion of medications by the nurse. Even though, technically, the Board has the burden of proof, in practical terms the nurse is obligated to try to prove he or she is not a drug abuser!
Another concerning issue is that, when medication errors do occur, hospitals and the BON tend to take a punitive approach. Yet, when looking at the real reason why medication errors occur, it becomes clear that individual practitioners are merely vehicles in a complex and broken system.
As an example, consider an emergency room situation: an unconscious patient is suffering from suspected anaphylactic shock. To save the life of the patient, the doctor gives a verbal order for epinephrine. The nurse who is supposed to administer the medication hears the order, but a sick and screaming baby distracts them, which then causes them to hear the order incorrectly. The patient then receives too much or too little medication, which could place their life at risk.
Communication and distractions are not the only potential causes of medication errors, however. Lack of knowledge about the drug prescribed or how it interacts with other drugs, limited patient history, transcribing errors, and automatic medication dispensing practices that cut out the last safety check are all factors that increase the risk of a medication error. Thankfully, diligent nurses can use a few strategies to reduce their overall risk.
Reducing Your Risk of a Medication Error
Nurses typically have the most contact with patients, and that makes them more prone to medication errors – but it also gives them more power in preventing them. Of course, some strategies do rely on the facility or practitioner (i.e. root-cause analysis, computerized order entry systems, barcoding systems, etc.). However, a nurse can make a difference, even without the support or acknowledgment of his or her superiors and facility. Examples can include:
- Repeating orders to ensure you heard them correctly;
- Charting the order at the time it is given;
- Using handoff strategies when changing shifts;
- Recognizing which patients have the greatest medication error risk;
- Follow right patient-right medication-right dose protocol;
- Take a full patient history to the best of your capabilities in any given situation;
- Check the order for potential oversights (i.e. prescribing a medication to which the patient is allergic); and
- Educating new nurses on the protocols and strategies that reduce medication errors.
Dealing with a BON Investigation
Almost all medication errors result in a referral to the Texas BON for investigation. In such situations, nurses are encouraged to protect themselves and their licenses from possible suspension or revocation. Contact Oscar San Miguel, Attorney at Law, for assistance. Dedicated and experienced, our Texas nursing license defense lawyer can take swift and aggressive action in your case. Call 512-228-7946 to schedule your free consultation today.