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Nurse's plan could reduce medication errors for children

When you have to take your child to the hospital, the last thing that you want to have happen is for your child to suffer at the expense of a doctor's error. Children are vulnerable to mistakes because they can't advocate for themselves. Problems like giving a child too much of a medication or forgetting to give a child a dose is likely to go missed by a child, because they don't understand what they should be receiving and expect the doctor or nurse to do the job correctly. For parents, this can mean trying to oversee treatment plans that they don't really understand that well.

When mistakes are made, it's possible to sue the hospital and seek a settlement for any harm that came to your child, but it's always better to reduce the risk to begin with. It's a challenge for hospitals to provide every patient with precise care, but it's not just at the hospital where a child could face risks, either. When a parent takes a child home, he or she has to start administering medications in the correct dosages as prescribed by the doctor. When you need to give medications, how much medication you have to give and the tool that you have to use to deliver it can vary. In some cases, if you give too much or too little of a medication, the results could be fatal.

One nurse came up with a solution for parents. After a hospital visit, you would go home with new medications and therapies for your child or children. The new, low-tech fix is a special kit that stores each medication with its instructions and the dosage tools required to give the correct dose every time. The kit comes with a warning sign that states: "distraction free zone," which is a reminder that parents need to be alert and on task when giving medications.

A review paper from Johns Hopkins University in 2007 states that anywhere between 5 to 27 percent of medication orders for children involve errors. This error could happen at any point along the path from when the prescription is written to the point when the child takes the drug. To eliminate errors, the doctor would have to be sure that the prescription is accurate; then, the pharmacist would have to fill the order accurately before giving it to a parent who has to administer the drug accurately. Because there are so many levels to medication administration for children, there is a higher risk of injury and error.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Sick Children Face Potentially Deadly Danger: Medication Errors," Hannah Furfaro, Sep. 25, 2016

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