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New York Attorneys for Nursing Errors Medication Errors

What is a Medication Error?

According to the Institute of Medicine, many individuals “die every year in hospitals due to preventable medical errors.”  As horrifying as it sounds, a statement like makes many of us nervous about seeking qualified and appropriate medical care and attention. Yet, so many of us have no other choice and find ourselves dealing with tragic events. Medical errors on the parts of doctors and nurses come in all forms—from botched surgeries, to delay of treatment, to inappropriate dispensing of medication. The outcome of a medication error includes devastating and life-threatening aftermath to the victim, as well as financial burden and, in some cases, loss of life.  What is a medication error and how can it be prevented?

The Institute of Medicine further defines a medication error as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional..”  Medication errors come in all forms, with the most frequent being the dispensing of an improper dose of medication. Medication errors also occur from improper communication, distractions, illegible handwriting on a script, misleading product labels, ineffective monitoring by a supervisor, and lack of education on the part of the institution.

Prevention of Medication Errors

While nursing schools have long taught basic fundamentals when it comes to nursing, there are “5 rights” related to safely dispensing medication which many nurses have learned through academic and practical tasks.  Those rights include: the right drug, the right patient, the right route, the right dose and the right time.  If each and every nurse makes these practices part of a natural routine every single time, then it seems as though there would be little room for any type of error in medication dispensing and administering. However, just as with any task to which the brain is accustomed to performing correctly, so is the brain also conditioned to make mistakes. Therefore, is it essential for hospitals and health care institutions to ensure and implement barriers and safeguards for the nursing industry that prevent errors related to dispensing of medication. Some of the checks and balances include the following:

  • Using a computerized bar code system that tracks inventory and offers alerts
  • Insisting that the nurses consult with the medical team and pharmacy prior to dispensing any type of medication, no matter how routine
  • Providing education about the medication being administered, and the reason behind each prescription

In addition to a standard checks and balances system that a hospital may require when it comes to dispensing medication, there are other cautions that should be noted such as the ones listed below.

  • Nurses must be aware of the risks associated with administering “high alert drugs,” i.e., those drugs that have an increased risk of causing harm to patients if dispensed and administered inappropriately. 
  • Doctors and nurses must communicate clearly when it comes to writing prescriptions.  Symbols and abbreviations can be easily misinterpreted, and if misinterpreted could lead to fatal doses, depending on the patient.  For instance, “U” can be interpreted as a “0,” and “qd” can be interpreted as “qid,” which in the latter case would actually quadruple the dose of that drug.
  • Nurses are as distracted as anyone when it comes to hospital tasks, and there are many situations in a hospital to which attention is diverted. A tragic case of nursing error occurred in 2011 when a seasoned nurse at a children’s hospital administered a fatal does of insulin to an infant who had been in her care since birth. The nurse admitted that she had been talking to someone, and miscalculated the dose at the time.
  • Patients should be aware of the dosages ordered and should ask questions and seek advice whenever a new prescription is introduced.

While the age of technology produces efficient procedures, there is still no absolute that errors will not occur. Computers are also prone to mistakes and are only as effective as the programming and data input. Yet, many nurses continue to rely on the computerization of dispensing and administering medications. Through computerization, some errors include: mismatching patients and medication; dispensing inappropriate doses of medications; and patients being given medications to which they are allergic.

Legal Help for Medication Error Victims

If you or someone you know has been traumatized or died as a result of a medication error through a nurse’s negligence, you may have questions on how to proceed in bringing those errors to the forefront. When you enter into a medical malpractice lawsuit of any kind, including one involving a nurse’s negligence through dispensing of medication, there is a vast amount of evidence that needs to be collected in order to start—and eventually win—the case. Compensation comes in the form of recovery for economic losses including costs of health care and lost wages from having to leave or alter the current status of employment; compensation in the form of pain and suffering related to any injury or death that was caused by the medication error; and punitive damages that punish the defendant. 

In any case, a medical malpractice lawsuit is time-consuming and lengthy if the patient is seeking to find the solutions without the help of a capable and renowned law firm who handles medication error cases.  Obtaining access to documentation, subpoenaing records, uncovering witness accounts and enlisting professionals as expert witnesses are just a few of the elements involved in a medication error case. This type of lawsuit is best handled by an experienced law firm renowned for personal injury cases. The Finz Firm is skilled in settlements related to medical malpractice. Without any obligation, we invite you to fill out and submit our Free Nursing Error and Medication Errors Evaluation form, or contact us toll free to (855) TOP-FIRM to further discuss your situation. The firm also handles all type of medical malpractice cases including the following conditions:

If you or someone you know has experienced an improper medication error as a result of a nurse’s negligence, the team at the Finz law firm consists of attorneys renowned for achieving desirable results and the compensation you deserve.  They are ready to assist you.

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