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In some cases where medication errors take place, it can be attributed to user error. For example, if a nurse is turning on a morphine pump, that nurse needs to know how to properly administer the correct dosage. If the dosage is too high, the patient could go into respiratory distress. If the patient’s dose is too low, he or she could suffer in pain when he or she doesn’t need to.

When a hospital staff member makes a mistake, the error needs to be addressed. If there are machines that can be upgraded to be more easily used, then that needs to happen. If a team needs more people, more should, technically, be hired when possible. While many factors can contribute to errors, addressing them and removing those factors is the job of the hospital.

Since 1992, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has reported close to 30,000 medication error reports. These reports come in voluntarily, so it’s possible that the true number of medication errors is higher. Some examples include one physician who ordered 260 mg of Taxol for a patient, but the patient received 260 mg of Taxotere instead. While both are cancer medications for chemotherapy, the drugs were for different kinds of cancer and should have been given in different doses.

Why do these errors happen? Poor handwriting is one, which is why digitally printing prescriptions has become more popular in recent years. Poor packaging, similar names and confusing drug labels are also part of the problem. Only by fixing these issues is it possible to keep patients safer from potential drug mistakes.