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HEALTH CARE VIDEO: Errors Increase When Nurses Interrupted While Administering Medication
HEALTH CARE VIDEO: Errors Increase When Nurses Interrupted While Administering Medication

(April 26, 2010 - Insidermedicine)

Nurses who are interrupted while administering medications to hospital patients are more likely to make errors, according to research published in the April 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Medication errors can occur in hospitals because of:

•    Human errors, such as a nurse accidentally administering the wrong dose of a drug

•    System problems, such as having two drugs with names that sound alike

•    Both happening together

Researchers from the University of Sydney observed 98 nurses while they administered medications over 4,000 times to over 700 patients at two hospitals. Errors in procedures for the preparation and administration of drugs were noted at they were made, and the nurses’ actions were also compared against the patients’ medical charts to determined whether they administered the right drug in the correct fashion.

Both errors and interruptions were common. Interruptions occurred 53% of the time. Nurses failed to follow proper procedure when preparing and administering drugs nearly three-quarters of the time. They made mistakes with respect to the drug itself, including which drug was administered, how much, and when and how it was given, one-quarter of the time. Interruptions increased these errors rates by about 12%, and the more interruptions occurred, the more errors were made. Four interruptions doubled the risk that a serious error – one that could cause substantial harm to the patient—would be made.

Today’s research suggests that changes should be made to how hospital wards are run so that nurses are less frequently interrupted when performing crucial tasks such as administering drugs.