Medication Safety is Our Number One Priority. Is it Yours?

By: Dawn Dexter RN, CMSRN

With all the comorbidities people have, achieving medication safety is more and more challenging. The rapid paced environment we work in especially presents a challenge to nurses. Patients that have a loss of memory or are unable to provide this information require a higher level of nurse vigilance regarding their safety.

We must be thinking about the many ways nurses help keep patients safe. One of the very important ways and responsibilities we have for achieving this safety, is medication reconciliation.

At the hospital where I work, medication reconciliation is to be done on admission. The patient, family, and any assistance needed is expected. The doctor can write a pharmacy consultation to assist with this process. The process should be done within 48 hours of the patient's admission, according to hospital policy.

I can think of many times I could have given the patient the wrong medication. It usually occurs the day after the patient's admission. This is when the patient is receiving their first full day of daily medications.

“It takes going the extra step to verify the medications are right so error does not occur.”

It takes going the extra step to verify the medications are right so error does not occur. I have called patients' homes to ask spouses about their medications. "Can you read each bottle to me?" I ask. Sometimes it is getting a pharmacy number to call and clarify the doses of medications or calling the patient's primary doctor, if that's what it takes.

One time with a patient's permission I faxed, called a pharmacy and spoke to a doctor in Toronto, Canada.

The patient was taking her own medications. She didn't have original medication bottles. So the process was long but is was very satisfying to do the right thing. We must advocate for patients who cannot advocate for themselves. This effort can save a life or prevent needless harm or pain to a patient.

Medication safety is so important! So as nurses, go the extra mile. The patients and families expect it and we are to do our best to give the right medication.

So how far will you go to keep your patients safe? Is it your top priority?

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