Patient Safety Primers: Medication Errors

Subject: Nursing
Pages: 3
Words: 745
Reading time:
3 min


The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has developed several patient safety primers to act as guides for healthcare practitioners on safety suggestions to put into practice in health care institutions at the federal, state, and local levels. One of the patient safety primers touches on medication errors, which is a term used to refer to preventable events with capacity to expose patients to potentially hazardous situations due to acts of commission or omission in medication administration (Hayes, Jackson, Davidson, & Power, 2015). The AHRQ has provided an overview of the safety issues that can be used to reduce medication errors, with patient education shown as one of the strategies with promising results (Medication errors, 2015). This paper discusses how patient education could be used in practice contexts to reduce medication errors and other adverse events.

Brief Summary of the Safety Issue

Patient education is anchored on the fact that patients should always be included as active partners in the care process by exposing them to appropriate knowledge and information on their medications and ways to avert errors. Patient education underscores the need for healthcare practitioners to educate and advice clients on the dynamics involved in medication errors and how to assume an active role in preventing these errors (Karch, 2015). Since patients act as the final linkage in the medication use process, it is largely felt that they should be facilitated and empowered to prevent medication errors and other adverse events.

Ways to Improve Care and Safety

Available literature demonstrates that “preventable medication errors cost the U.S. government more than $21 billion annually” (Karch, 2015, p. 18). To reduce this burden, there is need for patients to be educated on how to follow instructions and take medications on time (Hayes et al., 2015). One study by Schnipper et al. (2006) found a lower rate of medication errors and other adverse drug events (ADEs) among patients exposed to education and awareness creation programs, such as medication reviews, counseling sessions, and telephone follow-ups aimed at reminding them to take their medications and maintain healthy lifestyles. Education programs have also been found to improve drug adherence and encourage patients to ask questions about their medications during the process of care, hence significantly reducing incidences of mortality and morbidity associated with medication errors (Karch, 2015).

Medication errors and adverse drug events are associated with several ethical issues, such as harm to patients, erosion of trust between the nursing professional and the patient, impact on quality care, and other moral dilemmas that revolve around whether or not to disclose the error to the patient (Erlen, 2001). In the legal landscape, patients may sue to claim restitution for damages caused through medication errors. Such legal suits taint the image and reputation of the affected healthcare professionals and institutions, leading to more complications in the delivery of quality, safe care.


Since higher medication error rates are associated with greater levels of interruptions during the medication administration process, it is important for nurses to ensure that they operate in a favorable work environment that reduces unnecessary interruptions (Cloete, 2015). As a member of the interprofessional team, the nurse needs to work under clearly defined roles to reduce the probability of managing multiple roles simultaneously. Additionally, since nurses spend most of their working time with patients, it is important for them to assume an advocacy role in educating patients on safe medication use and talking to other professionals to enhance their responsiveness to patients needs when recommending and administering medications (Cloete, 2015).


Overall, this discussion demonstrates that patient education can be used to reduce medication errors and other adverse events in clinical settings. As such, it is important for nurse professionals to develop the capacity on how to use patient education to deal with the patient safety issue of medication errors.


Cloete, L. (2015). Reducing medication errors in nursing practice. Nursing Standard, 29, 50-59. Web.

Erlen, J.A. (2001). Medication errors: Ethical implications. Orthopedic Nursing, 20, 82-85. Web.

Hayes, C., Jackson, D., Davidson, P.M., & Power, T. (2015). Medication errors in hospitals: A literature review of disruptions to nursing practice during medication administration. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 24, 3063-3076. Web.

Karch, A.M. (2015). Preventing medication errors by empowering patients. American Nurse Today, 10, 18-23. Web.

Medication errors. (2015). Web.

Schnipper, J.L., Kirwin, J.L., Cotugno, M.C., Wahlstrom, S.A., Brown, B.A., Tarvin, E.,…Bates, D.W. (2006). Role of pharmacist counseling in preventing adverse drug events after hospitalization. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166, 565-571. Web.