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RNs Play Key Role in Preventing Medical Errors

Registered nurses play a key role in preventing medical errors, particularly when it comes to administering medications. When mistakes do occur, they can cause serious patient harm.

As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, medical errors cause at least 1.5 million preventable adverse drug events per year. Even more concerning, medication mistakes result in 98,000 deaths annually.

Because registered nurses (RNs) are often the last defense when it comes to patient safety, a recent study examined the most common RN medication errors. It revealed that mistakes most frequently involve cardiovascular drugs, which accounted for 24.7 percent of all preventable errors. Other drugs commonly involved in medication errors included antimicrobials (19.1 percent), electrolytes (11.3 percent), endocrine drugs (8.8 percent), and analgesics (8.8 percent).

As Medscape.com reports, the researchers also confirmed that RN medication errors are more likely to occur in certain health settings. Medication errors occurred most frequently in medical-surgical units (35.0 percent), followed by intensive care units (ICU) (14.7 percent), and intermediate care units (13.3 percent).

Overall, ten percent of the medication errors resulted in patient harm. An additional 11 percent required increased patient monitoring. The most common drugs associated with nursing medication mistakes that harmed patients were furosemide (34.6 percent), enoxaparin (29.7 percent), insulin (15.2 percent), and vancomycin (14.1 percent).

"Nurses play a critical role in patient safety and carry an ultimate responsibility for preventing MEs," study lead author Maki Muroi, RN, from the School of Community Health Sciences, University of Nevada Las Vegas, wrote. "Providing nurses with [a] supportive work environment, resources for continuing education and training, and effective use of ME incident reports may help deliver effective and safe medication practice."

If you or someone you love has suffered serious harm due to a nursing medical error, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.