Nurses and technicians delivering medications are interrupted every 2 minutes on average, according to a study by the Institute for Safe Medications Practice (ISMP). To make matters worse, the risk of medication errors increase 12.7% with each interruption. A nursing staff experiencing only four interruptions during the hours that it takes to prepare and complete a medication pass shows error rates that are more than doubled! And the odds only get worse from there on. The more wings or halls, the more residents in the facility, the more ongoing administrative or clinical changes, the ever-increasing and ever-changing medication regimens, all add to the likelihood of interruptions and errors.
So, the obvious admonishments would be: Don’t interrupt! Concentrate! Focus! But isn’t that easier said than done in the hectic, heavily loaded, and yet responsive environment of a skilled nursing facility? How can busy, often overworked and understaffed nurses and CNAs dedicate 100% attention to the requisite minutiae for … sometimes for hours on end?
Here are four ways to help reduce the number of interruptions and keep staff focused on this mission critical set of procedures:
- Awareness: Administrators need to make sure that all staff is aware of the importance of medication passing and how a single disruption can derail an otherwise successful process. Make this part of your training documentation and instruction. Consider having a nurse address this part of training to help drive home its importance.
- Signage: Nothing warns like a warning sign! Make sure you have bright, eye-catching signage above the door of the medications area. And make sure that there are repercussions for anyone who disregards the warning without due cause.
- Organization: Put someone in charge of ensuring that the supplies and surfaces for med passing are neat and organized in advance. While you don’t want to lay out the medications themselves, there are ways of prepping the area so as to reduce the potential of misplacement of medications and tools.
- Automation: The best way to mitigate the effects of interruptions is to adopt processes that are virtually foolproof to begin with. Today, the preeminent technology available for making med passes less interruptible, faster, safer, and involve fewer nurse hours is Talyst’s InSite® System. The InSite System enables long-term care facilities to put an on-demand, in-facility medication packaging and delivery system in the facility – delivering the exact dosage for each patient at precisely the time needed. These systems have the intelligence built in to virtually eliminate the potential for error.
Of course, there is no way to eliminate all interruptions. They are part of any dynamic environment. And they will occur, even in the most organized settings. But you don’t have to be victimized by them. Make sure you have the right people, the right processes, and the best technologies in place to protect your residents, your nurses, your community … and to demonstrate your commitment to be a high quality care-giving institution.