The Tragic Results of Medication Errors in Nursing

When we visit healthcare professionals with concerns about our health, we put our lives and our well-being into their hands. We trust the medical professionals to care for us and our loved ones to the best of their abilities, but sometimes, mistakes can be made that have tragic consequences. Every year, between 7,000 and 9,000 people die as a direct result of medication error in the United States. We hope this never happens to you or your loved one, but in case it does, it helps to be educated on what to look out for.

The monetary costs of medication errors exceed $40 billion per year, but the consequences go far beyond money.  Medication errors can, and do occur.  When they occur they may create many significant health issues for you or your loved ones.  Nursing standards of care state that a resident should get the right medication for the right reason in the right dosage at the right time.  The right dosage must be given for the medication to be beneficial to the patient.  When a medication error occurs due to the negligence of the medical personnel, causing permanent catastrophic injuries or death, the medical personnel must be held accountable. e.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of the consequences of medication errors, we encourage you to contact the office of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst today for a free consultation.

What are some common types of medication errors in nursing?

Medication errors can be described as the preventable inappropriate use of medications, so there are a variety of ways it can happen. Here are a few common examples:

  • Expired medication – Many medications deteriorate over time, making them at best useless and at worst harmful. This can result from improper storage or a failure to keep medications organized according to expiration date.
  • Incorrect duration – Medications are often time-sensitive, and being exposed for too long or for not long enough can have disastrous consequences.
  • Wrong dosage – Too much medication can be extremely dangerous or even fatal. Too little can mean a patient won’t get the results they need.
  • Incorrect preparation – Some medications aren’t ready to administer in their stored forms. User error can have harmful effects.
  • Incorrect drip rates – Medications that are administered via IV have drip rates that are essential to the drug’s success. When medication is given too rapidly, there can be adverse reactions. A common example is tachycardia (fast heart rate) resulting from a too-rapid epinephrine drip.

What causes medication errors in nursing?

Lack of knowledge

While most medical professionals are extremely well-educated in their fields, lack of medication knowledge commonly leads to medication errors. This includes not knowing details about safe dosages of medications, how drugs interact with one another, proper dilution practices, how to use certain technologies, and facility protocols. 

There have been cases of nurses who administered IV infusions over three hours instead of the prescribed twenty minutes or gave dosages multiple times in one day or instead of a week. While these sound easy to avoid in theory, the problems stem from a lack of proper training and education. It’s the responsibility of the entire medical team to make sure these errors do not occur.  It is vital that the doctors are knowledgeable about the medication they are prescribing, how those medications interact with the other medications the patient is already taking, and how those medications will interact with the current medical condition of the patient.  When not considering existing medical conditions and existing medications, introducing an additional medicine can lead to an adverse or even fatal result. 

Overwork and fatigue

The sad reality of the current state of nursing is that we do not have enough. There’s been an ongoing shortage for years now, and it’s only getting worse. The most severe shortages are in states like California and Texas, who need tens of thousands of nurses to meet their demand, but no state is free from the problem, including Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis drove many away from the profession.

The result of this shortage is that the nurses we do have are being forced to pick up the slack. This often means more shifts, longer hours, and higher levels of stress. It doesn’t matter how good of a nurse you are when you are too sleep-deprived to think straight. But we still have to hold our medical professionals and the hospital administrations who staff them to higher standards when there are lives at stake.

Careless writings

Illegible writing has been a problem in the healthcare industry for so long, “doctor’s handwriting” has become synonymous with incomprehensible text. While it’s often treated as a joke, there can be disastrous consequences to misinterpretation. Physicians are often in such a hurry to move on to their next task that nurses are forced to decipher key information about patient medication. 

It is the responsibility of both the physician and the nurse involved in a patient’s care to ensure total clarity in orders and prescriptions. These miscommunications have caused so many problems that the Institute of Safe Medication Practices has repeatedly recommended the elimination of handwritten prescriptions and orders. Until this happens, we need to make sure all healthcare workers know how important it is to be absolutely sure of what they are writing or reading.

Where does the blame lie?

It would be disingenuous to place all of the blame for medication errors on healthcare workers themselves. The truth is that the vast majority of healthcare workers are doing their best in a problematic system. We can hardly blame our medical professionals for being overworked. In many cases, hospital administrations seeking higher profit margins for themselves and their stockholders cut corners that eventually lead to these tragic happenings.

However, it is still the responsibility of your medical team to do everything in their power to prevent potentially fatal or life-changing medication errors.  When you go to a medical professional, you trust them to care for you- this care includes prescribing the correct medication, in the correct dosage, to be taken correctly.  You expect nothing less when those medications are being administered in a hospital or nursing home setting.

Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst is here to stand with you

Medication errors have the potential to cause permanent, catastrophic injury or death. If you or someone you know has been the victim of the consequences of medication errors, we encourage you to reach out to us. We know this is a difficult time for you, but it’s important to seek justice for both financial compensation and to deter future harm. If we’re able to work together, we promise to stand with you and work diligently to obtain justice for you. Contact the office of Maples, Nix, and Diesselhorst today for a free consultation.

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