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Where do professional medication errors usually occur?

Most truly effective medications require a doctor’s prescription. After a doctor recommends a medication, their patient needs to obtain it from a licensed professional, like a pharmacist. Sometimes, medical professionals even administer the drug to a patient directly.

Mistakes could potentially occur at any point during that process. People taking potent medication often assume that medical professionals have the skills and will exercise due diligence in order to safely administer those medications. They probably imagine that most major medication errors take place in patients’ homes because they fail to follow directions. Unfortunately, a staggering number of patients every year learn the hard way that many medication errors occur in medical facilities. Those who understand the risks may have an easier time watching out for medication errors and/or fighting back after they happen.

In the pharmacy

Many medication errors take place at the point of fulfillment. Both standalone pharmacies directly dispensing drugs to individual consumers and the pharmacy servicing large hospitals will have to fill hundreds of prescriptions each day. Pharmacists and the technicians that they oversee compound intravenous (IV) fluids, repackage pills and review medical records to ensure that there aren’t any interaction risks for an individual patient. They are the last line of defense if a doctor writes the wrong dose given the patient’s size. Errors can occur in the pharmacy, including accidentally replacing one medication with the other or providing someone with the wrong dose of the right drugs.

In a patient’s room

Some medication errors occur right at the point of delivery. The nurse or other medical professional administering the drug might make a mistake. They may input information incorrectly into an IV machine, which could then result in inappropriate delivery of the drug. They could also potentially mix up the medications that they have to administer to different patients. Similar mistakes might occur at the nurse’s station as professionals prepare the medication for distribution to patients.

Those who have experienced the negative effects of a medication error may require more treatment or may experience long-term medical consequences. Filing a medical malpractice claim could be a reasonable response to a medication error that harms a patient in any significant way.