Interruptions and distractions are a constant in nursing, especially when it comes to the medication ordering and administration process. To ensure optimal patient safety, the medication pass process should remain uninterrupted, however many disruptions are largely unavoidable. The very nature of a nurses’ workflow provides little leeway to eliminate distractions because they are often balancing multiple tasks and responsibilities, while on the floor tending to patients’ needs.
The Implications of Interruptions
According to one study, medication-related interruptions occur on average 6.7 times an hour, and more often during shift changes when there should be heightened communication between staff members. These distractions contribute to a 12.1% increase in procedural errors, and a 12.7% increase in clinical mistakes.
Considering how many patients are at risk for jeopardized safety, these statistics are frightening. Although the repercussions of some of these medication errors are minimal, others are life threatening, and solutions are needed to intervene, and mitigate the problem.
Hope for Improvement
One solution to aid nurses in properly handling and later administrating medications to their patients is automated dispensing cabinets (ADCs). These technologies can remind nurses of entry tasks they have completed before an interruption, and provide insight as to what actions need additional attention. Many ADCs can supply printing labels as a function to describe the nurses’ actions, and some can even remind nurses to dispose wasted medications that were not administered to their patients. This is helpful to keep organized, and avoid mixing-up medications when managing multiple patients, because nurses are prompted for disposal before acquiring other doses for their next delivery.
Patient safety is a top priority for healthcare systems, and although the issue of disruptions is important in ensuring patient safety, there are few actions in place to change the workflow patterns of nurses. Software technologies that record activity and communicate with nurses act as additional support during medication passes, when nurses may be distracted and busily invested in various responsibilities. The industry as a whole needs to recognize the benefits in technologies that can aid in promoting better medication management, not only to better utilize medication resources and reduce costs, but also ensure nurses and other providers are best positioned to provide excellent care.