Criminalization of medical mistakes typifies the blame-focused approach patient safety leaders have worked to reduce in health care. This article covers a high-profile case of medication error involving an automated dispensing system that is ubiquitous in health care.
Marufu TC, Bower R, Hendron E, et al. J Pediatr Nurs. 2022;62:e139-e147.
Medication errors threaten patient safety and can result in adverse outcomes. This systematic review identified seven types of nursing interventions used to reduce medication administration errors in pediatric and neonatal patients: education programs, medication information services, clinical pharmacist involvement, double checking, barriers to reduce interruptions during drug calculation and preparation, use of smart pumps, and improvement strategies (e.g., checklists, process or policy changes). Meta-analysis pooling results from various types of interventions demonstrated a 64% reduction in medication administration errors.
Berdot S, Vilfaillot A, Bézie Y, et al. BMC Nurs. 2021;20:153.
Interruptions have been identified as a common source of medication errors. In this study of the effectiveness of a “do not interrupt” vest worn by nurses from medication preparation to administration, neither medication administration error or interruption rates improved.
Clabaugh M, Beal JL, Illingworth Plake KS. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003). 2021;61:761-771.
Patient safety concerns in community pharmacies have been documented in the media. This study sought to examine the association of working conditions and patient safety. Results indicate that while all participants reported negative company climate and workflow, those in chain pharmacies reported significantly more fear of speaking up about patient safety issues than those in independent, big box, or grocery pharmacies.
Electronic health record alerting functions are ubiquitous elements of decision support systems. This news article introduces how they detract from safe care delivery and provide protections against unsafe, missed, or delayed care.
Nurses play a critical role in patient safety through their constant presence at the patient's bedside. However, staffing issues and suboptimal working conditions can impede a nurse’s ability to detect and prevent adverse events.
Schroers G, Ross JG, Moriarty H. Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021;47:38-53.
Medication errors are a common source of patient harm. This systematic review synthesizing qualitative evidence concluded that nurses’ perceived causes of medication administration errors are multifactorial, interconnected, and stem from systems issues. Perceived causes included lack of medication knowledge, fatigue, complacency, heavy workloads, and interruptions.
Pharmacists are instrumental to safe medication use in the ambulatory setting. This news story discusses factors in retail pharmacy environment that degrade pharmacists’ ability to safely practice, which include production pressure, required multitasking, and distraction. Strategies highlighted to mitigate the problem that have been inconsistently applied include scheduled breaks and staff supervision limits.
Bonafide CP, Miller JM, Localio AR, et al. JAMA Pediatr. 2019;174:162-169.
Interruptions are common in busy clinical settings but carry patient safety concerns, particularly if they occur during medication administration. This retrospective cohort study examined one hospital’s timestamped telecommunications data to determine the effect of incoming mobile calls or texts on subsequent medication errors (based on barcode alerts) in a pediatric ICU. Medication administration errors were more common when nurses were interrupted by incoming telephone calls (3.7%) compared to when they were uninterrupted (3.1%), and error risk varied by shift, level of experience, nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required. Incoming text messages were not associated with medication administration errors; the authors speculate that this may be attributable to the fact that text message alerts do not require immediate response or that nurses have become accustomed to their frequent occurrence.
Keers RN, Plácido M, Bennett K, et al. PLoS One. 2018;13:e0206233.
This interview study used a human factors method, the critical incident technique, to identify underlying factors in medication administration errors in a mental health inpatient facility. The team identified multiple interconnected vulnerabilities, including inadequate staffing, interruptions, and communication challenges. The findings underscore the persistence of widely documented medication safety administration concerns.
Kellogg KM, Puthumana JS, Fong A, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e1394-e1400.
Using incident reporting data from a multihospital reporting system over a 3-year period, researchers sought to identify safety events related to interruptions. About 43% of interruption events were reported by nurses, compared to 15% by pharmacists and 7% by physicians. Interruptions most commonly involved a medication-related task.
Interruptions during nurse medication administration can precipitate medication errors. This qualitative study sought to characterize medication administration interruptions in a nursing home. Interruptions were passive (background noises), active (conversations), or technological (use of electronic tools). A previous WebM&M commentary discussed harm that resulted from interrupting a nurse.
Westbrook JI, Raban MZ, Walter SR, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2018;27:655-663.
This direct observation study of emergency physicians found that interruptions, multitasking, and poor sleep were associated with making more medication prescribing errors. These results add to the evidence that clinical environments prone to interruptions may pose a safety risk.
Page N, Baysari MT, Westbrook JI. Int J Med Inform. 2017;105:22-30.
Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems improve medication safety by electronically alerting providers to potential prescribing errors and medication safety issues. If a system generates an excessive number of warnings, this can lead to alert fatigue and providers may unintentionally override appropriate alerts. This systematic review examined the impact of different types of medication prescribing alerts in CPOE systems on provider behavior. Researchers included 23 studies and found that the most common alert categories included drug–condition interaction alerts, drug–drug interaction alerts, and corollary order alerts. Although 17 of the studies demonstrated a statistically significant benefit from the intervention alerts, the authors conclude that further research is needed to understand if certain categories of alerts are more effective than others. An Annual Perspective discussed CPOE as it relates to patient safety.
A 2-month-old boy brought in for a well-child visit was ordered the appropriate vaccinations, which included a combination vaccine for DTaP, Hib, and IPV. After administering the shots to the patient, the nurse realized she had given the DTaP vaccination alone, instead of the combination vaccine. Thus, the infant had to receive two additional injections.
Thomas L, Donohue-Porter P, Fishbein JS. J Nurs Care Qual. 2017;32:309-317.
Interruptions and distractions can contribute to medication administration errors. This direct observation study found that interruptions and distractions are frequent during nursing medication administration, which increased cognitive load. These results demonstrate how interruptions affect nursing safety.
Texting as a communication method in the clinical environment is convenient, but it introduces distraction that can result in error. This survey sought to track the prevalence of medical order texting to better understand its impact on care processes.
Interruptions are known to contribute to medication errors. This direct observation study found that resident physicians and physician assistants experienced 57 interruptions per 100 medication orders. The authors suggest that inpatient health systems should implement strategies to reduce interruptions during medication ordering.
Westbrook JI, Li L, Hooper TD, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2017;26:734-742.
This randomized controlled trial had nurses on four hospital wards wear "do not interrupt" vests during medication administration. The rate of interruptions the intervention nurses experienced was compared to the rate in four control wards that did not have nurses wear vests. Although the intervention reduced non–medication-related interruptions, nurses reported that the vests were time consuming and uncomfortable; less than half would support continuing the intervention. This study demonstrates the need to design and test sustainable interventions to improve patient safety.
Huckels-Baumgart S, Baumgart A, Buschmann U, et al. J Patient Saf. 2021;17:e161-e168.
Interruptions are known to contribute to medication administration errors. This pre–post study found that nurses experienced fewer interruptions and made fewer medication errors following the introduction of a separate medication room. These results demonstrate how changing the work environment can promote safety.
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