Hospitals frequently make medication errors with child patients due to the heavy workload of nurses, distraction and poor communication, a new Canadian study suggests.
Serious errors when administering drugs to children are the most common medical error involving children, according to previous research. Drugs approved for adults are often used for children under the age of 12, although they aren't formulated for pediatric use.
When nursing Prof. Kim Sears of Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., and her colleagues anonymously surveyed nurses at hospitals affiliated with universities across the country, they found four pediatric deaths due to medication errors during the three-month study.
In total, 372 errors were reported, including 245 errors and 127 instances where an error was caught before the drug was administered.
The errors included giving children medication at the wrong the time, the wrong dose or the incorrect drug.
"Pediatric medication administration errors are occurring frequently and are ultimately devastating to children and their families," the study's authors concluded in the January issue of the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.
To make the administration of medications safer, the researchers' recommendations included:
Increasing training for future pediatric nurses.
Increasing communication between doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
Standardizing medication delivery and error reporting.
The study was funded by a nursing research fellowship at the University of Toronto.