The 5 rights of medication administration are used to help nurses, and other healthcare professionals, avoid costly mistakes when it comes to patient care. Even the most experienced staffers can end up making easily-avoidable mistakes. They are only human, after all.
However, with the substantial costs of medical malpractice suits, and the defensive medicine practices used by physicians to avoid being sued, these rights have become even more important. Defensive medicine is a term used to describe the tactics that physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare organizations use in order to avoid malpractice suits. It primarily includes conducting unnecessary tests and procedures to satisfy patients and making unnecessary recommendations to other physicians in order to "pass the buck."
Its estimated that up to $800 billion a year is spent on defensive medicine, accounting for a substantial portion of the cost of care in this country. The 5 rights of medication administration should be used to both ensure proper care of patients and to serve as a first line of defense against malpractice.
First, and foremost, when we go to administer any kind of medication, we should all take a second to double, triple, even quadruple check to ensure that we're getting the medication that has been prescribed for the patient. Seems like a no-brainer, right? You would be surprised at how frequent hospitalized patients are administered the wrong drug altogether. In fact, administration of incorrect medications is the sixth main reason that patients file malpractice lawsuits.
The obvious health concerns of administering to the right patient are not the only factors that can qualify for medical malpractice, either. Other issues like failing to document dosages, drug interactions, or taking the patient's medical history into account are also risks that can be avoided by remembering this right.
The second, and also very obvious, right is to ensure that the medication is being administered to the right patient. You could hit the nail on the head when preparing the drugs, but could then easily mix up your patients, especially if you're new to the facility.
To avoid this, hospitals have implemented systems to double check that the dose is going to the appropriate patient. The most common of these systems uses bar codes and a scanner to match drugs to patients.
Assuming you've checked the first two rights out, its vital that the correct dosage is administered to the patient. A single wrong dosage could have devastating consequences, including severe conditions or even death. Be absolutely certain that the dosage you're going to administer matches what is listed in the physician's order.
In order to avoid an overdose or any other complications, it's important to also ensure that doses have been given the proper time-interval. Although the times should be listed on the medication order, its healthy to make a habit out of asking the patient when the last time they were administered the drug.
All it takes to cause serious harm to a patient is one small lapse. In fact, the most common time when a mistake is made is when someone is trying to cut corners, whether its the result of being understaffed or just a busy day. Either way, its better to take a step back and slow down for a minute than to ultimately make a mistake that could cost someone their life.
Staying accurate in using the prescribed route, or method of administration, is also vital to protecting your patients, your employer, and your job. Do yourself a favor and ensure that you're double checking the route. If you remain unsure about whether you're choosing the right method, do not guess! Don't administer the medication until consulting with the ordering physician.
In addition to the 5 rights of medication administration, there are a few more steps you can take to ensure that you're doing the most you can to provide proper and safe care. Making sure that the patient is knowledgeable of the drugs they are taking, avoiding any potential work-arounds or shortcuts around safety systems, nurturing a culture of safety by being a model for others to emulate, and ensuring that the clinical or hospital environment are adequate for proper drug administration can all go a long way to reducing errors.