Check, check and check again: administering drugs

Yellow kit bag

Whilst it’s the normal ‘day job’ for many of us, delivering healthcare puts people under pressure. We have to make decisions in dynamic and unpredictable circumstances, administering a variety of drugs dependant on the person we see in front of us and what we think is wrong.

We know that errors in drug administration pose a huge risk to patients. But we’re all human - mistakes can happen.

So what can we do to try and prevent errors as far as possible? Going back to the safe steps of medicine administration, we need to make sure that we have the:

  • right amount
  • right medicine
  • right route
  • right time
  • right patient.

We should take the time to follow a structured drugs checking procedure before we administer them - even the ones we use day-in-day-out, like aspirin and GTN for example.

Here’s a reminder of some best practice tips:

  • Check your Clinical Practice Guidelines to ensure the drug is indicated for your patient, and to check there are no associated cautions or contraindications
  • Before you administer, check the drug. That includes; the name, the dose, the preparation, and the expiry date
  • Have a look at the container or packaging it’s in. Is the ampoule damaged? Is the seal intact? If it’s a liquid, is it the right colour and free of particles?
  • Once you’re satisfied it’s right, ask a colleague to also check all of the above for you
  • If for any reason you don’t think you can use the drug, i.e. it’s past its expiry date or it’s damaged, quarantine it and keep a note of the batch number. Please then report it on Datix as soon as you can, so that the Trust can investigate whether it’s an isolated or more widely spread issue.

Why not download a copy of our ‘administering drugs safely’ infographic as a handy reminder?

Published, 19th January, 2017

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