I regularly receive the ISMP newsletter (offers free CEUs twice a year!) and have been amazed at some of the errors RNs have made. As nurses, we are instructed to use the "6 rights" of medication administration:
- Right patient
- Right medication
- Right dose
- Right route
- Right time
- Right indication
However, using these 6 rights does not guarantee patient safety. Critical thinking skills are essential and even then they can fail the best nurse, especially in Hour 10 or 11 of a 12-hour shift on the third day of a string of 12-hour shifts.
Patients must take responsibility and ask questions about the medications that are being administered to them. I frequently encounter patients who have no idea what medications they are taking or what they're used for.
Here is a link to an online medication form that patients can use to fill out and carry with them at all times. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) provides extensive information from hospitals nationwide who have implemented safer healthcare delivery practices. The site requires free registration to access information and I have found it to be a wonderful resource.
As an RN, I tell my patients they should always ask who the person is who is administering the medication (are they an RN? a CNA? a crazed patient from room 210 who is offering you his stashed medicines?). Patients should also ask what the medication is, the dosage, and what the medication is used for. The RN should also instruct the patient on the common side effects and what the patient should do if he or she experiences one of them. However, this would happen consistently in the ideal world and that's not where we live.