We are all probably a little numb when we read about medication safety.  We get it.  It’s super important.  We live the life.  It’s easy to become complacent until we have a problem.  I decided to outline some practical best practices and hope you will use the tips below to take another peek at your processes.

Here are my top 5, in no particular order:

  • If it goes on the table, it needs a label. Not only do we want to ensure that any medications we place on the back table are labeled, it is best to have a process of verification when the nurse hands off the meds to the tech in the OR.  Make sure that all meds are visualized and confirmed by the tech, and that the label is verified correct as well.  AORN recommends our labels include name, strength, concentration, and expiration date.


  • If you didn’t draw it, don’t give it. Unless you are a direct witness to another person drawing up a medication, I recommend thinking twice before administering.  I have heard of stories of wrong meds being given and misunderstood dilutions resulting in medication errors due to well-intended hand offs gone wrong.


  • Do your homework. If you haven’t given a med before, or it has been a while, take a minute to look up the drug administration information.  Important things to consider include: how to dilute; how fast to push; and contraindications with other medications and allergies.  It only takes a minute to review, and your patient stays safe.  You may want to consider downloading a medication reference app.  Pocket Pharmacist is a free app that is easy to use.


  • Don’t forget to read back. We all know how important it is to confirm a verbal order.  Don’t let time pressures cause a skip in this step.  Make sure that any verbal order gets read back and confirmed prior to administration.  Talk about it often to ensure that it is a culture in your facility.  All VORB activities need to be documented and signed off within in the medical record “as soon as possible” per CMS.


  • Don’t let drug shortages put your patients at risk. With all the drug shortages, it may be necessary to substitute commonly used medications with an alternative.  It’s a good idea to hold an in-service on any ordered med substitutions.  Discuss why and how the new med is being used, and any information staff needs to know to ensure that the change doesn’t lead to an error.


Feel free to share these 5 tips with your staff! If you have a great med safety tip, I’d love to hear it.  Comment below or e mail me at leslie@almss.com.  Thanks!

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