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Made a Medication Error? Here’s What to Do

  • November 9, 2016
  • RPh on the Go

medical errorAll humans make mistakes. And in the medical field, any mistake has the potential to cause harm, or even prove fatal. No medical professional wants to make a mistake, and no patient wants to be the victim of said mistake. So what do you when you make a clinical mistake?

Take Action Immediately

The moment you realize you’ve made a mistake, take action. Though it may be tempting to try to cover it up, doing so may cause further harm to the patient, and may also prevent steps to address the issue to stop it from happening again being taken. Avoid blaming anyone else for your mistake, because you need the respect and loyalty of coworkers and colleagues.

Do whatever is necessary to protect the patient. Depending on the pharmacy setting you work in, this may be as simple as calling the patient to ask them to return the prescription, or calling the doctor or nurse and explaining the situation in the hospital. Once the patient is cared for, and any adverse reactions are mitigated, report the error as per your pharmacy’s guidelines.

It’s All in the Details

When you make your report, include the important information about the event: who it happened to, what happened, where it happened, how it happened, and why it happened. These details can help determine if any deviations were made from the standard operating process or if there were system issues that could have played a role in causing the error. It can also help determine what, if any, processes need to be changed, or what actions need to be taken to prevent the error from happening again in the future.

An error report is only as good as the reporting system that’s in place to help get the reporter through the process. You should always report the error as soon as possible after it’s noticed. The person who caused, or noticed the error first should be the person to report it. Encourage all employees to report all events, and never to assume management is already aware of the issue.

Making a mistake is bad, but avoiding confronting the mistake is even worse. The best thing you can do as a pharmacist is to correct the error as soon as possible by ensuring minimal, or better yet no harm is done. The only way to get this done is to address the issue immediately. Once you’ve gotten the error under control, it’s time to learn from the mistake to keep it from happening again.

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