Medication mistakes are a fairly common problem in West Virginia nursing homes. Nationally, in fact, it is estimated that nursing homes are the site of nearly 800,000 preventable "adverse drug events" each year. The larger tragedy is that many of these medication errors could be avoided with better coordination between staff members and improved safety practices, particularly when patients are going to transfer to or have just arrived at a new facility.
One of those safety practices is called "medication reconciliation" -- a process where physicians, pharmacists and nurses thoroughly review a transferred or transferring patient's drug regimen to identify and address discrepancies. Because physicians and pharmacists are rarely available to the registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who coordinate patient care in nursing homes, RNs and LPNs are often equally responsible for conducting those reviews.
One possible reason for the medication errors this model tends to produce is highlighted by the results of a University of Missouri study recently published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing. The study's key finding was the observance of distinct differences in the way that RNs and LPNs identified discrepancies in medication regimens. Researchers hope that making RNs and LPNs aware of those differences could lead to fewer medication errors overall.
An assistant professor who took part in the study added that "(t)he 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."
Source: Futurity, "Drug coordination keeps nursing homes safe," Jessalyn Tenhouse, March 16, 2012