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Nurses must follow "five rights" to prevent serious injury

Medication errors are a serious problem, both in California and nationwide. Patients may think that medication errors happen mainly due to a physician's error, but, in fact, many medication errors are due to the actions of a negligent nurse. Specifically, nurses who fail to follow what are known as the "five rights" of drug administration may contribute to serious, and even fatal, medication errors.

The "five rights" of drug administration include the following components: right patient, right dosage, right time, right route and right drug. Nurses must make sure they comply with all five rights in order to promote proper patient care.

To follow effective safety standards, before administering medication nurses must ensure not only that they are treating the right patients, but also that the patients are not taking other drugs that could lead to a dangerous combination of prescriptions. Furthermore, though dosage amounts are frequently determined by a computer system, in order to prevent dosage mistakes, nurses ought to consider whether an ordered dosage seems appropriate for a particular patient, including whether that patient has a condition that would benefit from a dosage modification.

Nurses ought to be vigilant in the timing of their medication administration. In order to determine an appropriate time for medication administration, a nurse must be knowledgeable about both the drug and the patient he or she is treating, thus fulfilling the "right time" prong of the standard. The right route refers to how a patient receives a specific medication, and a nurse must ensure that a particular patient can receive his or her medication properly, whether by operating a prescribed inhaler or self-administering an injection, if necessary.

Finally, ensuring that a patient is receiving the right drug is imperative. Not only does this mean that the patient is receiving what the provider prescribed, but a nurse must also be vigilant in considering whether the generic and brand names match what is listed on a doctor's prescription, whether the drug itself is appropriate for the patient, and whether the drug will potentially require additional patient monitoring.

The "five rights" aim to protect patients from serious injury. If you have suffered an injury due to a nurse's failure to follow one of the "five rights," you may have a legal cause of action. An experienced California medical malpractice attorney may be able to offer guidance.

Source:, "Preventing medication errors by empowering patients," Amy M. Karch, accessed Oct. 16, 2016

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