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Six Strategies for Nurses to Prevent Medical Errors

Prevent Medical Errors

There is no doubt that medical errors and mistakes are a bitter reality of the healthcare industry, whether clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centers, or doctor's offices. Typically, medical errors can include but are not limited to misdiagnoses, inaccurate lab reports, malfunctioning medical equipment, improper medications, and much more.

According to various reports, one out of seven Medicare patients suffers from medical errors while staying inside a hospital. Furthermore, medical errors can result from a lack of judgment. For instance, a medical error occurs when a hospital patient on a salt-free diet receives a salty meal, or a diabetic patient gets a high-sugar meal.

Moreover, medical errors also occur due to a lack of communication between patients and caregivers.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure; health practitioners, especially nurses tasked with administering medication to patients, must prevent medical errors by ensuring they receive proper medication and treatment.

With that in mind, let us look at a few strategies nurses can employ to prevent medical errors.

Improve their knowledge about healthcare best practices. 

As a nurse, you are at the forefront of patient care, and being negligent in your work will put your patients at risk of medical errors.

So, as a nurse, you have to ensure that you remain up-to-date with the latest treatment techniques and patient safety policies set by governing bodies. And one way to achieve such a feat is by obtaining further education.

Sure, acquiring a degree might be the last thing on your mind when working around a busy nursing schedule, but with the availability of various online BSN to DNP programs, earning a nursing degree without attending a university is now possible and more accessible than ever.

Studying for an online course or program is an excellent idea to ensure an ideal work-life balance. In the end, becoming a lifelong learner and keeping yourself up to date with the latest nursing courses, certifications, and nursing research will allow you to improve as a nurse and provide the best possible medical error-free care to your patients.

In addition, earning higher degrees and certifications will enable you to climb higher in your career.

Follow the correct medication reconciliation processes. 

Healthcare facilities must incorporate strategies that allow proper mediation reconciliation when shifting patients from one facility to another or from one unit to the next one. For example, a nurse must verify and review medication to ensure the right patients receive suitable medicines, the correct dosage, and at the right time.

Furthermore, nurses must compare these medications with the MAR(medication administration record). As information won't necessarily be available at all times, nurses must verify with every source possible, including the patient's physician, their family member, or the transferring/discharging unit or facility, to prevent medication errors.

Document everything. 

It pays to keep detailed records of everything related to your patients, For instance, proper forms of previous medication, documentation, medication labeling, vital signs, and much more. After all, if there is a lack of appropriate records for any treatment, procedure, or medication, the chances of a medical error occurring will dramatically increase.

For instance, if a nurse forgets to document dosage prescription handed to them by the doctor or physicians, nurses coming in on the next shift will likely administer the wrong dosage to a particular patient.

Furthermore, not reading medication labels for usage and expiration date is another medical error-prevention strategy for nurses. After all, they have been instances of medicines that were mislabeled in the past. So, it is best to read the fine details to avoid errors from happening.

Avoid equipment injuries. 

Since medical equipment can frequently change as technology updates, nurses must educate and train themselves to safely and adequately utilize them. So, ensure that you're inspecting such equipment regularly and only using them as they're intended to be used. Furthermore, if you see any irregularities, such as missing nuts or other components, report to your supervisor quickly.

In the end, maintaining medical equipment will go a long way in ensuring patient safety and reducing medical errors.

Communicate effectively with patients and other healthcare workers. 

It is a well-known fact that nursing units are amongst the busiest departments of a healthcare facility. So, because of such a hectic working environment, communication breakdowns can occur, causing medical errors in the process.

Therefore, as the heart and soul of patient-centered care, nurses must improve and utilize their communication skills day in and day out to ensure patient safety and provide high-quality patient care.

That said, you need to be highly skilled in techniques like written communication, verbal communication, and active listening. So, consider limiting your distractions when taking medication orders, administering medications, providing reports, or performing procedures.

Furthermore, don't forget to constantly remain in touch with the patient and their physician or doctor to ensure caregiving accuracy and patient safety.

Limit overtime. 

Nursing professionals are putting in more hours per week than they ever did in the past, leading to overtime in the face of staffing shortages. In fact, according to the BLS, the average weekly hours worked by nurses in healthcare facilities have reached record highs.

However, such a scenario results in various risks associated with overworked nurses. Some of these risks include burnout, clinical fatigue, reduced morale, and, most importantly, medical errors.

So, nurses need to fight this fatigue however they can as it could drastically lead to an increase in medical errors and patient safety issues.

So, consider setting boundaries for yourself, have an accountability partner, and practice self-care. After all, the more your look after yourself, the better you will perform your job and the fewer medical errors you will make while practicing your nursing craft.

Conclusion. 

Most errors in healthcare revolve around improper medication administrations, incorrect reports, incomplete patient records, and much more. But, with proper healthcare knowledge and nursing skills, most medical errors are preventable.

However, nurses can be a driving force for finding and reducing typical medical errors that lead to detrimental patient outcomes. So, consider the strategies mentioned in this article and incorporate them into your daily nursing routine.

Doing so will allow you to work at your best and provide medical error-free, high-quality care to your patients.

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