PATIENT SAFETY: Sidestepping unsafe abbreviations
Cheryl A. Burke RN, CPHQ, BSN

January 2009 
Volume 39  Number 1
Pages 21 - 23
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Burke, Cheryl A. RN, CPHQ, BSN

Issue: Volume 39(1), January 2009, p 21–23 Publication Type: [upFront: PATIENT SAFETY] Publisher: © 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. Institution(s): Cheryl A. Burke is director of quality at Mercy Hospital in Scranton, Pa.

BY AVOIDING UNAPPROVED medical abbreviations, you decrease the risk of harm caused by medication errors and improve the quality of patient care. According to National Patient Safety Goal (NPSG) 2B (renumbered as 02.02.01 in 2009 NPSGs), healthcare facilities should “standardize a list of abbreviations, acronyms, symbols, and dose designations that are not to be used throughout the organization.” 1

In this article, I'll describe the performance improvement project that we initiated at my facility to improve compliance with this NPSG and decrease medication errors.

Abbreviations lead to errors

Since January 1995, medication errors have accounted for 9.5% of all sentinel events, or 385 out of 4,064 sentinel events. ...

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