When I hear the words “patient safety”, the first thing that comes to my mind is medication errors. Of course, there are plenty more factors to consider with regard to patient safety – infections, surgical errors, and pressure ulcers, just to name a few. In fact, a search for the keywords “patient safety” on nursingcenter.com yields a result of 3,309 articles!

This week is Patient Safety Awareness Week. The theme, "Let's Talk: Healthy Conversations for Safer Healthcare" got me thinking about how conversation can minimize or prevent medication errors. Here are some of my ideas – please add to this list! Let’s learn from each other and help one another to improve patient safety!

Questions to ask patients:
1. What medications do you take regularly? How do you take them? When do you take them? With meals or on an empty stomach? Why do you take these medications? Do you ever not take them?
2. Do you take any medications “as needed”? What medications? Why do you take them?
3. Do you take any over-the-counter medications? What are they? Why do you take them? When do you take them?
4. Do you take and herbs or vitamins? When? How? Why?
5. Do you have any questions about your medication regimen?
6. Is there anything I can do to help you manage your medication routine?

Before administering a medication, ask him if he’s had this drug before, if he knows why it’s been prescribed for him, if the dose is his usual dose, and if he has any questions.

For discussion with our colleagues:
1. Let’s review his medication list.
2. How often did you give his pain medication (or any p.r.n. medication)? What were the results?

Also, if any questions arise at any time – talk about it! Confer with your nurse colleagues, pharmacist, and the prescriber. The patient and his family members or other caregivers can also be valuable sources of information.

Lastly, be sure to take a look at the website of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP). Here you’ll find several must-have tools for nurses, including a ISMP’s list of high-alert medications, ISMP’s List of Error-Prone Abbreviations, Symbols, and Dose Designations, Oral Dosage Forms that should not be crushed, and more. 

Thanks for “listening” to me. What do you want to talk about?