Health Problem Description
Medication errors constitute some of the most frequently occurring and serious problems that plague the existing world health system. A medication error occurs when a doctor or a nurse inspecting the patient interprets the results of the ongoing medical investigation in a wrong way or makes a decision based on incomplete data, resulting in wrong drugs being assigned to the patient. At best, the wrong medication does not harm the patient while having a reduced or no effect on the disease. At worst, the drug causes a reaction that could be potentially dangerous to the person in question. According to Schmidt et al. (2017), medical errors are very frequent, resulting in roughly 1 error per patient per day, while the potential for being life-threatening is at 35%. In most cases, the errors are associated with the human factor – healthcare workers are humans and thus are prone to error from time to time. The aim of potential interventions to reduce the number of medical errors is through the increasing of the levels of education, provision of instruments to make more precise diagnoses, and engaging in interdisciplinary efforts to reduce the chances of wrong medications being assigned to the patient.
Human error is identified as one of the primary causes of medication errors. However, the factors that contribute to human error are many. An article by Cohen (2016) found that some of the major factors contributing to human error are a combination of lacking time, tiredness, and poor medication labeling. Many drugs try to save space by putting the names of drugs in tiny letters, making them harder to differentiate between one another (Cohen, 2016). As a result, nurses that are tasked with medicating patients are more likely to commit an error. Patients that take medication at home are also exposed to such errors, especially when they have to take multiple drugs during the day.
The lack of awareness of one’s fallibility is another factor that contributes to medication errors. It has a direct connection with the quality of education being provided to students. Latimer et al. (2017) report that the lack of critical thinking and a systematic way to double-check one’s actions and decisions during medication assignment and administration is one of the reasons for medication errors in hospitals. Latimer et al. (2017) also state that teaching nurse students to be aware of their errors and providing a systematic framework of decision-making has the potential to drastically reduce the chances of medication errors occurring.
Finally, the research by Schmidt et al. (2017) suggested that medication errors were the result of an improper organizational culture within the hospitals. Their research produced an intervention that focused on introducing a system that sought to eliminate nurse medication errors through the use of extensive medical records, a system of double-checking the medication, and rewards/punishments for failing to report, record and adhere to the system (Schmidt et al., 2017). As a result, the number of incorrect medication administrations was reduced by 22%, suggesting that the hospital in question did not implement enough rigor in medication treatments (Schmidt et al., 2017).
Healthcare Problem Analysis
As evidenced in the articles above, medication errors have a myriad of factors contributing to them, ranging from nurse understaffing and overstress, to a lack of education, poor rigor of practice, and various instrumental and efficiency-based issues. Thus, it is a complex problem that requires a multimodal approach affecting more than a single factor among those outlined. The majority of medication errors occur in a hospital setting rather than at home, meaning that the context has more to do with nurses rather than patients (Latimer, 2017).
The importance of the problem to me as a nurse is significant, as it is one of the most likely issues, I might find myself involved in. At the same time, the dangers of poor medications cannot be overstated. Therefore, the problem is both frequent and potentially dangerous, requiring immediate and far-reaching interventions to handle (Schmidt, 2017). No nurse or a doctor wants to be the cause of the patient’s illness as a result of wrong medications. It contradicts the basic premise of healthcare and nursing, which is to not harm. Thus, reducing the number of errors with medications is congruent with the overarching purposes and philosophy of nursing as well as my own goals and beliefs.
The people affected by the issue are on all stakeholder levels, including the patients, the nurses, the community, and the overarching government. Patients are the ones whose lives and health are endangered by wrong medications. Nurses and the hospital system, in general, receive additional strain from having to make up for the consequences of medication errors, including rehospitalization, lawsuits, and so forth. The community is damaged by the effects of wrong drugs being implemented, as patients and their families suffer the physical, financial, and emotional consequences of such. Finally, governments have to find ways to regulate the relationships between patients and nurses on a legal level, shoulder the burdens of increased healthcare costs, and deal with the decreasing trust of patients in the existing system.
The potential solutions to the problem would include educational interventions (Latimer et al., 2017), organizational changes (Schmidt et al., 2017), and improving the quality of life in nurses, resulting in them becoming more awake, aware, and motivated to do their jobs properly (Cohen, 2016). Each of these solutions requires a specific set of resources, including human, material, informational, and financial resources. Quality of life improvements may overlap with organizational ones, as some of the strongest solutions include the introduction of relief classes and better schedules, which would require more nurses to be available for work as well as additional payments associated with them. Educational interventions would involve increasing awareness about the problem, providing working analysis frameworks to be implemented, and additional oversight.
Ignoring the issue, according to Schmidt (2017) would lead to the eventual increase in severe health consequences in patients. Chances of rehospitalization and patient fatalities would increase as well. Hospitals will lose time, money, and employees to deal with these consequences (Cohen, 2016). The overall trust in the medical system would decline, resulting in patients trying to treat themselves, which would result in even more severe outcomes than before (Cohen, 2016). A chain reaction would occur, with other medical issues being exacerbated by letting things continue as they are now. The US government is already investing trillions of dollars into healthcare, and the reason many are demanding cuts is because of the inherent inefficiencies present right now, which nothing is being done about.
The proposed solution is an educational intervention aimed at both nurses and patients, to have both engage in a thoughtful process of controlling the medication administration process. While the patient cannot fully participate in prescribing drugs due to a lack of specialized education and experience, they can actively involve themselves in checking what drugs the nurse is bringing them. The nurses, on the other hand, can engage in self-motivation and self-control to improve the quality of their medication administration.
From an ethical point of view, the study has very few negative implications. Educational interventions largely provide information to the recipients and let them act on their own accord, leaving very little room for ambiguous situations (Artal & Rubenfeld, 2017). Providing individuals with information does not require collecting their data or exposing it to various privacy implications associated with surveys and interviews, for example (Artal & Rubenfeld, 2017). However, there are a few negative ethical implications to consider, still.
The primary issue is associated with the correctness of the provided information. If the researchers do not verify and critically examine the information they use if they do not provide evidence of the reliability of their methods, they have the potential of causing harm to patients as well as the hospital system, not to mention wasting valuable time and money (Iphofen, 2020). Therefore, the primary ethical responsibility is to ensure the validity and reliability of the information and instruments used. To successfully conduct the proposed intervention, some of the following implements will be required:
- Financial resources – to support the research team and to purchase materials when necessary;
- Material resources – computers, pamphlets, research materials;
- Human resources – to conduct the education of nurses;
- Time resources – estimated time is 3-6 months.
Artal, R., & Rubenfeld, S. (2017). Ethical issues in research. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 43, 107-114.
Cohen, M. (2016). . Nursing, 46(2).
Iphofen, R. (2020). Ethical Issues in Research Methods: Introduction. Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity, 371-379.
Latimer, S., Hewitt, J., Stanbrough, R., & McAndrew, R. (2017). . Nurse Education Today, 52, 7–9.
Schmidt, K., Taylor, A., & Pearson, A. (2017). . Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 32(2), 150–156.