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PICU Nurse Distractions Can Cause Medication Errors

A nurse testing a child

Report Shows PICU Nurse Distractions from Work Phones Could Be Cause of Medication Errors

A late 2019 research study published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that not only are pediatric nurses multitasking and overworked in intensive care units (ICU), they are receiving too many distracting calls on their work phones that may lead to mistakes in administering medications to young patients.

An overview of the report titled Association Between Mobile Telephone Interruptions and Medication Administration Errors in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit includes:

  • Researchers collected telecommunications and data from 257 pediatric ICU nurses at a children’s hospital from August 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017, reflective of 3,308 patients.
  • They examined the effect of incoming phone calls and text messages in the 10 minutes leading up to the administration of medication.
  • The calls and texts were received on the mobile phones given to nurses by the institution.
  • The overall rate of errors during 238,540 medication administration attempts was 3.1 percent when nurses did not receive incoming phone calls and 3.7 percent when they were interrupted by such calls.
  • Incoming text messages were not associated with medication errors.
  • Risk of error varied by shift, experience, nurse to patient ratio, and level of patient care required.

A nurse’s experience and history of clinical training were also examined in the higher chance of making medication errors. “The odds of a nurse making errors when interrupted by calls is lower among nurses with more pediatric ICU experience (six months or more) compared to nurses with fewer experiences (less than six months),” according to the report.

Common Types of Medication Administration Errors

Nurses who are responsible for caring for such fragile patients as those within the pediatric ICU should be provided the time and mistake proofing tools to perform routine services such as administering medications in addition to providing compassionate care without harmful distractions. At least that is the expectation. Still, understaffed and overworked departments are becoming more of the norm, allowing room for errors to occur no matter how sensitive the care setting.

According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, some of the most common types of medication errors are:

  1. administration of an improper dose of medicine
  2. giving the wrong drug
  3. using the wrong route of administration

Minimizing interruptions during the medication administration process should be a strong focus for error reduction and enforced by hospital and health systems.

Chicago Attorneys Fighting for Better Patient Care

If a medication error has harmed you or someone you love, please call the medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti. For nearly 30 years, we have successfully fought on behalf of Illinois families like yours and been devastated by an act of medical malpractice. Please, call (312) 332-2872 for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

Source: Bonafide CP, Miller JM, Localio AR, et al. Association Between Mobile Telephone Interruptions and Medication Administration Errors in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. JAMA Pediatr. Published online December 20, 2019.