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How can I avoid medication errors while I'm in a hospital?

Ileen Craven
Nursing

First and foremost keep a complete list of ALL medications (prescribed, over the counter, and herbs/supplements, if applicable) in your wallet. Have the doses and times you take these medications next to the name of each individual medication. Include medications that you may also take on an occasional basis such as Tylenol, Ativan, etc. I used to tell my patients to list their medications on a 3x5 card. Update this card every time something in your medical regime changes.

When the nurse enters the room you should be identified two ways: your name and birthdate (usually). The nurse will check these against your patient bracelet. Most healthcare facilities now scan doses of medications against a patient's record to ensure the right person is getting the right dose, time of medication, etc. This is a very important safety check and helps cut down on medication errors.

When the nurse is ready to give you medicine you have the right to question every medication including name, dose, reason, etc. You also have the right to be educated about every medicine you receive. If you don't feel a certain medication is appropriate it is also your right to question why you are receiving this medication. You do have the right to refuse medications, if necessary. Make sure if you refuse that a health care provider and you have an open dialogue about the necessity of the medications you have refused.

A family member should also be educated on your medications in case you are too ill to review what you were prescribed or have taken over the counter. It may also be a good idea for this person to carry a list of your medications in his or her own wallet.

Be a smart consumer, you are the center of care. A smart consumer is often a safe one.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.