Tech Shortage Plays Role In More Drug Dosing Errors

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INCORRECT ADMINISTRATION OF DRUGS is one major source of errors in hospitals and evidence indicates that children and emergency-room visitors are most likely to be affected.

That’s the conclusion of a study done by U.S. Parmacopia’s Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety (CAPS). Researchers identified 105,603 medication errors during 2001 in 368 hospitals participating in the study. Of these errors, 2,539, or 2.4%, resulted in patient injury, which included 14 deaths.

Researchers identified workload increases as a major source of errors by doctors and nurses. They also identified that inexperienced staff or inadequate staff contributed to 43% of medication errors in 2001. This was a substantial increase from the error rate of 33% in 2000 and 27% in 1999.

Parallel Link To Laboratories

But the most interesting aspect of this study which directly touches clinical laboratories can be found in a researcher’s comments. “We’ve heard a lot about the nursing shortage, but what we are seeing is there are errors from shortages of respiratory therapists or pharmacists,” observed Diane Cousins, a Vice President at CAPS.

Cousins attributes one important cause for medication errors to be the inadequate technical staff in non-nursing and non-physician positions, specifically respiratory therapy and pharmacy. THE DARK REPORT believes this is an early example of how the movement to reduce patient errors will benefit clinical laboratories.

The Pharmacopia study of medication errors is instructive on how other studies—involving laboratory test- ing—will identify the sources of medical errors and generate findings on how to reduce these errors. The Pharmacopia study determined that either inexperience or inadequate staffing of technical positions contributes to medication errors. It is reasonable to expect that studies of medical care that involve how laboratory testing is used may uncover parallel examples of errors caused by issues of laboratory staffing.

Once these problems are identified, efforts will be made to develop solutions that prevent patient errors. If inexperience or inadequate staffing of technical positions in the laboratory is an issue, it is reasonable to assume that funds and resources will be forthcoming to correct those problems.

That is why the Pharmacopia study’s findings on technical staff sources of medication errors is relevant. It demonstrates that, where it is learned that inadequate staffing of laboratories has become a source of patient errors, steps will be taken to correct those staffing problems.

For the right reasons, this means laboratory staffing issues will eventually come to the attention of hospital administrators in such a way that they cannot be ignored. In the long term, this will be positive for hospital-based laboratories.

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