Study Connects Nursing Home Drug Errors to Failed Staff Collaboration

Researchers out of the University of Missouri conducted an examination of the way that collaboration between registered nurses and licensed practical nurses can improve the safety of nursing home care. Spurring the research was concerns about the total number of “adverse drug events” that occur at these facilities each year. The study noted that available data suggests that there are 800,000 such preventable drug mistakes every year. Each Illinois nursing home neglect lawyer at our firm appreciates that many of these errors cause serious harm to residents.

The study, “Medication Reconcilitation in Nursing Homes” was published in the most recent Journal of Gerontological Nursing. The authors of this latest research effort suggest that in many cases those adverse drug events could be eliminated with better communication during the process known as “medication reconciliation.” As the name implies, this safety practice involves all those involved in a resident’s care-doctors, nurses, pharmacists-reviewing a patient’s medication when they are transferred between different care settings (like from a hospital to a nursing home). This reconciliation is important so that potential problems and discrepancies can be caught before they actually lead to patient harm.

Nurses are at the heart of care at most nursing homes. The latest study by gerontological experts found that registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) lead most medication reconciliation processes at nursing homes. However, many RNs and LPNs have different ways of going through the reconciliation. What one nurse might identify as a discrepancy another might fail to flag. Therefore, correcting this problem and identifying uniform reconciliation process can help eliminate these medical errors and prevent possible nursing home negligence.

An assistant professor at the University’s School of Nursing explained that in nursing homes pharmacists and physicians are often not around to help with the reconciliation process or other tasks that come when patients are transferred from different care settings. Therefore, RNs and LPNs are often charged with taking command of all of these transfer details. The professor elaborated that many fail to appreciate this role that nurses play. RNs in particular, the professor noted, have a good sense of the “bigger picture” of patient care that often allows them to make choices that limit nursing home negligence and improve overall patient outcomes.

Authors of this latest study explained that RNs and LPNs are often used in inappropriate ways. They note that these two professionals are used interchangeably. This may be a mistake. The nursing professor explained, “The solution is not to replace LPNs with RNs but to create collaborative arrangements in which they work together to maximize the skill sets of each to provide the best possible care for patients.”

Our Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys understand that transfers between nursing homes or from a hospital to a nursing home are some of the riskiest times for seniors, particularly those with the most fragile conditions. In the past nursing home stays were more uniform. Today, there are many more transitions between nursing homes, private homes, and hospitals. Improving the safety of those transitions will go a long way to limiting otherwise preventable harm to these residents.

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