The No. 1 tip to avoiding medication errors


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There are a bazillion suggestions that can help you administer your medications quickly, efficiently, effectively and safely. In my opinion, they all have their place, but the single most important thing you need to worry about is safety.

Safety first, safety last.

There are many studies out there indicating that most medication errors (for any health care professional delivering medications — not just nurses) happen during the preparation phase of administration. This is when you are separating, verifying and confirming that what you plan on delivering is what is in front of you. This is when you put that safety checklist into action.

Of course we ALL know about the five rights (some schools of thought use seven — and I’ve read up to 10) of safe medication administration. Back in my day it was five. I can only assume these rights have been burned into your brain:

  • The right patient
  • The right drug
  • The right dose
  • The right route
  • The right time
  • (The right reason)
  • (The right documentation)
  • (The right to refuse)
  • (The right patient education)
  • (The right evaluation)

All are extremely important, but none of it matters if you are distracted during the preparation stage. Do not allow a fellow coworker, staff member, physician, family member, patient or any other individual interrupt you during the preparation phase. Eliminate all distractions. This includes answering phone calls, as well as texting on your personal cell phone!


If you get distracted, sooner or later you’ll make a mistake.

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