News Corner: How Martha Jefferson Hospital Is Reducing Medication Errors

As methodologies continue to evolve in order to reduce medication errors, hospitals are increasingly looking for new ways to change workflows to improve patient safety on the floor. Case in point, Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia is implementing a couple of simple processes to try and reduce medication errors during prime medication distribution times.

Time for a Time Out

From the hours of 8:30-9:30 am, the orthopedics floor is piloting a new program called a “medication safety time out”. During this time, a large sign is placed outside the unit signifying that nurses are currently distributing medications to patients. By alerting other caregivers or family members that medications are being delivered, administrators hope that nurses will face fewer distractions or disruptions for issues that may not be emergency situations.

Some studies show that during medication distribution, a nurse may be interrupted as often as once every two minutes. Given that the risk of medication errors increases 12.7% with each interruption, disrupting a nurse just six times during a single drug administration pass can triple the risk of making a harmful medication error.

Red Light, Green Light

The second part of the program involves using a red light, green light system to indicate whether patients have received their morning medications. While elementary, the oversized colored dots outside patients’ rooms provide a clear indication to other providers and family members if that patient has received medications that morning and is cleared to leave the floor, go to their physical therapy appointment, or receive family visits.

By instituting a simple safe zone policy and making others aware of what the nurses are doing, Martha Jefferson Hospital is starting to see positive results after only a few weeks. Nurses on the floor have reported experiencing less stress while handling medication and the hospital is planning to roll out the program to other departments later this year. Additionally, nurses are able to spend more one-on-one time with patients, since they don’t have to field requests from others on the floor.

Do you think this is a viable strategy in larger health systems? If so, why aren’t more hospitals adopting similar practices? If not, what should hospitals do instead to create a medication safe zone for nurses during their med pass?

Related articles:

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Critical Care Nurse

American Nurse Today


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