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Sample Essay

While health care’s drive to contain costs increases nurses’ workloads, the acuity and complexity of patient care also increase. Nurses need to prioritize significant responsibilities for safe patient care.

According to Bailey, in this hectic work environment, serious medication errors are appearing prominently as a basis for successful malpractice cases against nurses. A recent joint study by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy indicated that more than one third of all medication errors reported involve one of six categories: allergies, insulin, heparin, opiates, patient controlled analgesia (PCA) devices, and potassium concentrates.

For example, 22 errors involved the use of PCA. Although accounting for only 2.3% of the errors reported, these errors can lead to severe narcotic overdoses resulting in over sedation, respiratory depression, and death. There were several rate-setting errors, a wrong concentration, a misprogrammed dose, and device malfunction errors. Errors in programming of pump devices, concentration of solutions, and rate of administration have led to errors involving opiates.

But knowledge and performance deficiencies also have caused these errors. Tenfold overdose, especially involving morphine and fentanyl, were reported by survey hospitals. The following case illustrate the need for today’s overburdened nurse to be vigilant with medications.

When a patient didn’t receive anticoagulation, resulting in his death by pulmonary emboli, the jury awarded $539,000 against a Philadelphia hospital. The patient didn’t receive his prophylactic anticoagulation until 24 hours after surgery had begun.

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