Contract Nursing Common Medical Mistakes to Avoid

Medication errors are among the most common medical mistakes made in hospitals, surgical centers, and other medical facilities, and when these errors occur, they can have devastating consequences for the patients and their families. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to understand how and why these errors happen and how to avoid medical mistakes that put your patients at risk.

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Medication Errors

According to J.K. Aronson, four broad types of medication errors can occur in hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities.

  • Rule-based errors occur when a medical professional does not follow the rules or applies bad rules to a specific set of circumstances. An example of a rule-based error is using the wrong route of administration for medication.
  • Knowledge-based errors occur when a medical professional makes a medication-related mistake due to a lack of knowledge. An example of a knowledge-based error is giving a patient medication without asking about allergies first.
  • Memory-based errors occur when a medical professional has a lapse in memory. An example of a memory-based error is knowing that the patient is allergic to Bactrim and then forgetting about the allergy.
  • Action-based errors occur when a medical professional takes some type of action that results in a medication-related mistake. An example of an action-based error is administering hydralazine instead of the similar-sounding hydroxyzine.

One factor that can increase the chances of making a medication-related mistake is being tired or burnt out from long shifts or overtime. Author Amy Orr, a chronic pain advocate, believes it is a mistake for nurses to push through pain and fatigue to get things done. She states, "People tell themselves they can 'rest when they get home,' but this rarely happens because as soon as they're home, they fall right back into the routine of normal day-to-day life."

Orr recommends pacing yourself and allowing plenty of "wiggle room" in your plans, especially before you start a new assignment. "Building slack into travel schedules and deadlines will mean that when you do need to rest or exercise proper self-care (or when something unexpected happens of any kind), it won't be disastrous to your overall plans."

As a contract nurse, you should also take the time to learn where medications are stored and how they are labeled. Taking a few extra minutes on your first day can help you avoid serious errors once you get into the swing of things at your new assignment.

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Misdiagnosis and delayed diagnosis are among the most common medical mistakes in the United States. An analysis of data from the Nurse Practitioner Closed Claims Study indicates that "diagnosis-related allegations" accounted for 48% of the claims filed against nurse practitioners, according to Denise Moore of The Doctors Company.

You can avoid nursing mistakes on the road by doing the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with each facility's written protocols. Not all facilities follow exactly the same processes and procedures.
  • Collaborate closely with your colleagues to ensure that you do not miss any important information that could help you make a timely, accurate diagnosis. Registered nurses typically spend more time with patients than physicians or mid-level providers, so there's a good chance you may notice a symptom that was not present when the doctor examined the patient.

If you're ready for your next assignment, visit AMN Healthcare to find contract nursing jobs that match your skills and interests.

Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospital-acquired infections, sometimes called healthcare-associated infections, are infections that develop when a patient is receiving treatment for a different health condition, according to the federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. There are several things you can do to prevent these infections from developing in your patients.

  • Wear protective clothing to prevent infection-causing organisms from coming into contact with each patient's skin, as recommended by Mehta et al. On your first day of work, ask the charge nurse where to find gowns, masks, and other protective equipment to ensure you can find it quickly in the event of an emergency.
  • Ensure patient-care areas are kept as clean as possible. Check with the charge nurse to find out how to contact environmental services to request a thorough cleaning.

Travel nursing has many benefits, but spending a lot of time on the road can be difficult, especially when you work at multiple facilities in a single year. To avoid common medical mistakes, take time to get acclimated to each facility, don't be afraid to ask your colleagues for help, and plan your schedule carefully to ensure you get plenty of rest before you start each new assignment.

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