Medication errors can occur at any stage from prescribing to administering the drugs to the patient. Most of the medication errors occur during the prescription stage and wrong interpretation of the drug prescribed either by pharmacologists or by the attending nurses. Errors in prescribing the right drug could occur when the concerned physician is inexperienced, inattentive, distracted or physically unfit (Aronson, 2009). Prescription errors could occur even in cases where the right drug is prescribed due to lack of legibility of the physicians writing or when intercepted incorrectly by pharmacists, nursing or other staff in the hospital. In cases where the right drug is available errors can occur during administering the drugs mainly due to negligence of the concerned staff. Several safety and precautionary measures have been identified and listed which would help prevent medication errors and thereby protect the safety of patients (Anderson & Townsend, 2010).Giving the right medication to the right patient is the most vital step in any hospital setting. There are a wide range of factors that could contribute to medication errors. Medication errors occur as early as the prescription stage where the medication written by the physician is not legible or the pharmacists misreads the medication in haste. In one such instance a pharmacist misreads a seizure medication prescribed for a boy and dispensed a steroid which lead to induced diabetes that was left undetected. which finally cost the life of the boy due to diabetic ketoacidosis (Anderson & Townsend, 2010).
In some cases medication errors occur as a result of increased workload of the hospital staff especially the nurses. This could lead to distractions while procuring or administering drugs to the patient and fatigue and ill-health of the caregivers can also lead to grave medication errors (Anderson & Townsend, 2010; Mahajan, 2011). In one hospital setting a “no interruption zone” has been instituted in places where nurses procure medications from automated dispensing machines. Such actions will facilitate better concentration from the staff and hence fewer error risks (Anderson & Townsend, 2010).
In case of intensive care units the higher stress levels and frequent changes in patient prescription and the severity of their illness can add to the risk of errors (Mahajan, 2011). In one instance a nurse attending to a patient in a critical care unit administers an intubated patient with powdered pills via his nasogastric tube failing to notice the ‘Do not crush’ warning in the electronic medication record. This error led to the death of the patient. Hence it is vital to constantly update the nursing staff with drug information and also proper communication needs to be established between the concerned physicians and the staff nurses. Nursing staff and others dealing with medications should be constantly updated about new medicines procured by the facility as well on potential medication errors that could occur (Anderson & Townsend, 2010).
Drug manufacturers also play a major role in this regard as proper manufacturing, packaging and labeling of drugs would help in preventing potential medicat