Medication Errors’ Sources and Prevention


Healthcare institutions monitor the experiences of their clients to identify new methods that can improve the quality of care available to them. Nurses cooperate with patients whenever providing care to them. Patient experiences are greatly impacted by the skills and obligations of nurses. Various environmental factors in every healthcare institution should be analyzed if more patients are to get desirable support. It is agreeable that various problems affect the welfare of many clients. Proper knowledge of such predicaments can help medical practitioners identify better practices towards improving the quality of patient care (Anderson & Townsend, 2010). A medication error is categorized by many professions as a major problem affecting many clients in different healthcare settings. This essay gives a literature review of the existing information about this problem. The information is obtained from ten peer-reviewed journals focusing on the issue of medication errors.

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Literature Review: Medication Errors

Sources of Medication Errors

Athanasakis (2012) argues that “medication errors remain a common cause of unpredictable harm to many patients trying to get adequate nursing care” (p. 774). This problem presents adverse events and situations that affect the safety of more patients. Institutions that record such errors end up spending more money to treat the affected patients. Medication errors tend to affect the health system of every medical facility. Many nurses have identified the problem as one of the major issues affecting the welfare of many patients. Additionally, victims of medication errors tend to be psychologically, physically, and emotionally affected (Kieft, Brouwer, Francke, & Delnoij, 2014). Many scholars have undertaken new studies to understand the economic and health implications of such medication errors.

The nature of the medication process is very multifaceted. This means that the process is characterized by numerous interactions, discussions, analyses, and high-risk activities (Wasserman et al., 2014). After identifying the drugs for a specific patient, the caregiver should administer it professionally. Studies have shown conclusively that most of the medication errors occur during the drug administration stage. The inability to label and monitor drug usage in hospitals has been associated with the increasing number of medical errors. Whenever such errors occur, responsible nurses are held accountable and sometimes face the required disciplinary action. However, many professionals in the practice believe that proper initiatives should be put in place to minimize such errors.

The increasing number of medication errors in different “medical institutions is associated with interruptions during medication administration” (Delamont, 2013, p. 9). Such interruptions might occur when a caregiver is interrupted during the process of preparing the right medication for a given patient. The current problem of nursing shortage in many healthcare organizations explains why nurses are always required to manage a wide range of tasks. The malpractice makes it impossible for more nurses to monitor the drugs that should be taken by different patients. Anderson and Townsend (2010) believe that noise is another source of distraction in many facilities that contribute to this quandary.

The issue of nurse shortage forces many practitioners to execute several tasks simultaneously. Whenever such activities occur, nurses are forced to make complex decisions in an attempt to support the health needs of their clients. Such competing roles “cause interruptions and distractions thereby resulting in medication errors” (Cheraqi, Manoocheri, Mohammadnejad, & Ehsani, 2013). Inappropriate communication channels have been associated with the increasing number of such medication errors. Throughout the medication administration process, nurses should not be disrupted if they are to deliver positive results. Medical practitioners are therefore focusing on the best measures to improve the nature of communication in their respective departments.

Studies have indicated that “the length of shifts, working hours, and high workloads are associated with nurse fatigue” (Cheraqi et al., 2013, p. 229). Overworked nurses will be unable to make meaningful decisions whenever administering various drugs to their clients. This situation will create room for new errors thereby affecting the health outcomes of the targeted patients. These challenges continue to affect the experiences of many patients in different healthcare settings.

The existing guidelines and policies for drug administration have been associated with this issue. For instance, many practitioners do not have access to the best guidelines for medical use and administration. The nurses also find it hard to get quality information (Kieft et al., 2014). Experts have indicated that many healthcare facilities have inadequate training programs to support their caregivers. Lack of quality information and the absence of proper training methods are critical factors contributing to such errors in different healthcare settings (Wasserman et al., 2014). Scholars encourage health institutions to consider the best practices towards reducing these errors.

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It is agreeable that every hospital has its unique attributes, policies, and environmental factors dictating the performance of its workers. Flynn, Liang, Dickson, Xie, and Suh (2012) believe strongly that some environmental attributes will affect the quality of services available to different clients. Some of these factors include a lack of proper lighting, improper drug labeling, and inappropriate drug administration procedures (Kieft et al., 2014). These environmental forces contribute to dissatisfaction, stress, fatigue, and disinterestedness.

Medication errors have been known to present numerous problems for many nurses and patients. These errors have the potential to affect more patients negatively (Kieft et al., 2014). Sometimes the errors can result in permanent damage or injury (Wasserman et al., 2014). Patients who receive the wrong drugs tend to be re-hospitalized. More often than not, such patients require intensive support and care thereby increasing medical costs. These facts show clearly that the prevalence of medication errors is something directly proportional to negative economic implications.

Preventing Medication Errors

That being the case, the prevention of these errors is an essential step towards improving the safety of every healthcare system. Medical practitioners and nurses should consider various strategies that have the potential to prevent these errors. By so doing, the implications of such errors will be addressed while at the same time improving the welfare of the targeted clients (Delamont, 2013). Several approaches have therefore been outlined by medical experts to avert most of these medical errors. For example, hospitals should ensure every drug is properly labeled. Nurses should also cross-check every drug before administering it to the selected client.

The Five Rights Policy “has become a powerful model for addressing a wide range of medication errors” (Delamont, 2013, p. 9). The five rights outlined under this policy include the “right to dose, route, patient, time, and medication” (Frith, Anderson, Tseng, & Fong, 2012, p. 290). Nurses who use this framework effectively will ensure the right drugs are identified before being administered. The next phase is ensuring the right patients take their drugs promptly.

Cloete (2015) goes further to argue that medical practitioners and nurses should be ready to study widely. Lifelong learning is embraced by many medical scholars because the practice can help nurses acquire new skills. The strategy will equip more nurses with new skills such as dosage calculation (Cloete, 2015). Students of nursing should also be educated and informed about the best practices towards minimizing these errors. Lifelong learning is supported by different professionals because it encourages nurses to use evidence-based strategies. These methods have the potential to improve the experiences of many patients.

It is necessary for nurse leaders (NLs) to guide, mentor, train, and empower their followers. These NLs will collaborate with more nurses and make it easier for them to offer timely and efficient care to their patients. The nurses will also be motivated to make adequate decisions capable of promoting the health outcomes of their respective patients (Athanasakis, 2012). New communication channels will also emerge in every nursing environment. The nurses will make the relevant consultations before administering the targeted drugs to different patients. NLs should encourage their followers to use modern informatics to share information and communicate with each other (Forni, Chu, & Fanikos, 2010). These strategies can play a positive role in minimizing medication errors.


Although medication is a critical procedure in every healthcare delivery process, errors tend to occur thereby affecting the quality of patient care. A medication error is a major problem affecting the welfare of many patients. Specific factors such as poor communication, nursing shortage, improper drug-labeling methods, and burnout are associated with this problem. Effective leadership and mentorship can empower nurses to deal with such errors (Forni et al., 2010). New studies are therefore needed to understand the issues associated with this problem affecting many consumers of healthcare.

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Anderson, P., & Townsend, T. (2010). Medication errors: don’t let them happen to you. American Nurse Today, 1(1), 23-28.

Athanasakis, E. (2012). Prevention of medication errors made by nurses in clinical practice. Health Science Journal, 6(4), 773-783.

Cheraqi, M., Manoocheri, H., Mohammadnejad, E., & Ehsani, S. (2013). Types and causes of medication errors from nurse’s viewpoint. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 18(3), 228-231.

Cloete, L. (2015). Reducing medication errors in nursing practice. Nursing Standard, 29(20), 50-59.

Delamont, A. (2013). How to avoid the top seven nursing errors. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy, 11(2), 8-10.

Flynn, L., Liang, Y., Dickson, G., Xie, M., & Suh, D. (2012). Nurses’ practice environments, error interception practices, and inpatient medication errors. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 44(2), 180-186.

Forni, A., Chu, H., & Fanikos, J. (2010). Technology utilization to prevent medication errors. Current Drug Safety, 5(1), 13-18.

Frith, K., Anderson, E., Tseng, F., & Fong, E. (2012). Nurse staffing is an important strategy to prevent medication errors in community hospitals. Nursing Economics, 30(5), 288-294.

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Kieft, R., Brouwer, B., Francke, A., & Delnoij, D. (2014). How nurses and their work environment affect patient experiences of the quality of care: a qualitative study. BMC Health Services Research, 14(1), 249-258.

Wasserman, M., Renfrew, M., Green, A., Lopez, L., Tan-McGrory, A., & Betancourt, J. (2014). Identifying and preventing medical errors in patients with limited english proficiency: key findings and tools for the field. Journal for Healthcare Quality, 36(3), 5-16.

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