Medication Errors: Understanding the Risks & Building a Safer System

Ensuring the safety and well-being of residents is paramount. Even within the best care systems, unexpected mistakes or miscommunications can sometimes lead to unintended harm. Understanding the prevalence and causes of medication errors is crucial for improving resident safety and preventing future occurrences.

Medication administration remains a critical area for improvement in assisted living communities. Prior research has shown that many medical errors occur at medication administration.1

Minimizing medication errors and maximizing resident safety

Although not all medical errors result in severe harm, the potential consequences cannot be ignored. Because of this, ETE’s goal is to educate and equip care teams with effective preventive measures and strategies—to minimize medication errors and ensure the well-being of residents.

Causes of medication errors

  • Communication: Miscommunication (spoken and written) between healthcare professionals, or unclear instructions for residents, can lead to errors. If a person mishears or misreads instructions, labeling, or dispensing information—residents often suffer the consequences.
  • Human error: The potential for human error requires careful attention. Mistakes can happen, even in healthcare. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better. We know that when care teams are overworked and overtired, their energy and focus dwindle. That’s why following clear protocols and procedures is so important. They act like guardrails and help keep care teams on track—creating a safer environment for everyone.
  • Distractions: Multitasking and interruptions during medication administration create a recipe for potential errors. When focused attention deviates, the risk of missteps grows.
  • Confusion: Look-alike medication names and packaging can easily lead to dispensing or administering the wrong medication. Even similar-sounding names can pose a significant threat to resident safety.
  • Complex medication routines: Residents with multiple medications are at higher risk for errors. The sheer number of medications raises the potential for mix-ups and misunderstandings.
  • Inadequate resources: Inadequate resources or time constraints during medication administration can increase the risk of errors. Without sufficient support or dedicated time, it’s harder to ensure attention to detail, potentially compromising resident safety.
  • Knowledge gaps: When care teams lack proper training on prevention strategies and established protocols, they’re missing the crucial knowledge and skills necessary to minimize errors. By investing in comprehensive education, communities can empower their care teams to act as effective safeguards against medication errors.

Strategies to prevent medication errors

  • Standardizing medication administration procedures: Clear and consistent procedures for medication preparation, dispensing, and administration minimize confusion and ensure everyone follows the same steps.
  • Providing comprehensive training: Regular training on medication safety, error prevention strategies, and proper medication administration techniques is crucial for all care team members.
  • Promoting effective communication: Encouraging open communication between healthcare professionals, residents, and their families allows for timely identification and clarification of any concerns or potential errors.
  • Encouraging teamwork and collaboration: Fostering a team-based approach to medication administration where everyone feels empowered to speak up about potential issues can help prevent errors.
  • Addressing fatigue and workload: Implementing strategies to manage workload and reduce fatigue, such as scheduling adequate breaks and promoting efficient workflows, can help care teams stay focused and alert.
  • Promoting a culture of continuous learning and improvement: Fostering a culture where feedback is welcomed, questions are encouraged, and learning is valued can contribute to a safer medication environment.
  • Medication delegation training: ETE empowers care teams through medication delegation training, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to confidently and effectively implement best practices.

Equipping care teams for safer medication administration (and more)

Equipping your care team with the knowledge and skills is the cornerstone of safer care. Our free monthly training session, held on the first Tuesday of every month, provides your team with the tools and confidence to help optimize resident well-being within your community.

Each session covers critical topics like medication, compliance, safety, and best practices—while empowering your team to ask questions and solve problems.Don’t miss this opportunity to help support your residents’ safety and equip your care team with the knowledge and confidence to provide exceptional care. Sign up for our next training today!

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