How to Train Your Staff Against Medication Errors

As the manager of a senior living community, you have an important job on your hands — making sure your staff is well-trained and equipped enough to provide top-notch care for your residents. A huge chunk of that involves medication management. Unfortunately, medication errors can and do happen, and they can have serious consequences.

If left unaddressed, they can damage your residents' health and well-being. Sadly, medication errors in senior living communities happen more often than you'd like to think.

According to Radio Canada International, the Canadian Patient Safety Institute reports 28,000 deaths yearly due to medical errors. Medication errors are the most frequent errors. These numbers are why it's essential to train your staff on how to prevent these and respond appropriately if they do occur.

Training your staff can be a daunting task. You might wonder where to start or how to maintain ongoing training.

Read on to find some practical tips and strategies you can start implementing today. First, take a look at what constitutes a medication error and its potential impact on resident health and safety.

What Constitutes a Medication Error?

What exactly is a medication error? In the world of senior living, it's any preventable event that may cause or lead to a medication mix-up or cause harm to a resident. 

A medication error can include mistakes such as:

  • Medication interactions that weren't accounted for: When two or more drugs interact in a way that causes harm to the patient.
  • Improper administration: Giving medication via the wrong route or not following the correct administration techniques. For example, your staff may give a medication intravenously, but that's supposed to be given orally. Perhaps, they give a medication that needs to be taken with food on an empty stomach.
  • Incorrect dosage: Giving a resident too much or too little medication.
  • Incorrect timing: Administering medication such as insulin or certain antibiotics at the wrong time. For example, your staff may administer a nighttime medication that causes drowsiness first in the morning.

These errors often occur due to problems like understaffing, lack of proper training, miscommunication, or plain old human error. The consequences of these errors can range from minor discomfort to serious health complications — and yes, even death.

Therefore, the importance of proper training to minimize medication errors can't be overstated.

How Can You Combat Medication Errors Through Training

So, how do you train your staff to avoid these medication errors? Consider three strategies you can follow.

Educate staff on error prevention software

Training your staff on proper medication administration is crucial. A key piece of the training puzzle is error prevention software like senior living electronic Medication Administration Records (eMAR)

Senior living eMAR is an advanced digital software that automates the documentation, storage, and retrieval of medication administration information. 

How does it work? It scans the resident's ID and the medication package, cross-checks the scanned data with the prescribed medication details, and gives the staff an alert if anything's amiss. 

In your fight against medication errors, eMAR can act as a powerful ally:

  • Providing real-time alerts: eMAR systems have a real-time alert feature that can be a game-changer. Imagine a staff member is about to administer a medication that's not scheduled or is a duplicate of a drug already given. The eMAR system flags this in real-time, preventing a potential error.
  • Confirming correct dosages: eMAR can confirm the correct dosage for each resident. When a staff member administers medication, they can cross-check the dosage with the eMAR record. If there's a discrepancy, the system will alert the staff member.
  • Cross-referencing medication interactions: eMAR systems can cross-reference a resident's medication list and flag any potential interactions. So, if a new medication could interact with something the resident is already taking, the system will alert the care provider.
  • Ensuring medication is administered at the right time: An eMAR system can keep track of when medications need to be taken, and even how far out they need to be spaced out from each other. This ensures that residents receive their medications at the right times.

Senior living eMAR is an invaluable tool in promoting safe and effective medication management in senior living communities. It helps to streamline the medication administration process, reduce the risk of human errors, and ultimately, enhance the quality of care you provide your residents.

Collect and review 1-1 real-world data

To really get a handle on medication errors, you need to understand your community's unique challenges. This means collecting and reviewing real-world data, then using that data to spot internal trends.

These trends might include common medication errors — such as incorrect dosing or consistent timing issues — or recurring administration issues. You can use your senior living eMAR to track specific data and generate a report that displays exactly where you need to improve.

By analyzing your data and spotting these patterns, you can tackle the root causes during 1-1 meetings with your staff. Take the time to discuss specific incidents and brainstorm strategies to nip them in the bud.

Keeping the lines of communication nurtures a problem-solving mindset among your staff and fosters a culture of accountability and continuous learning.

Conduct regular group training 

Practical, hands-on training is essential to improve medication administration. Particularly, group training can really aid in error prevention. They get the team spirit flowing, encourage collaborative problem-solving, and let staff learn from each other's experiences and insights.

To implement group training into your workflows, you could schedule regular sessions where staff can review case studies, play out scenarios, and engage in group discussions about medication safety.

Putting it all Into Action

At the end of the day, safeguarding against medication error is about prioritizing your residents' health and well-being. Training your staff against medication errors is crucial in ensuring resident safety and improving the quality of healthcare.

So, embrace technology like eMAR, collect and analyze data to identify internal trends, keep communication channels wide open, and make regular training non-negotiable. This way, you ensure your residents receive the best care possible.

If you're looking for the perfect senior living eMAR to assist your staff, consider Med e-care, Canada's most comprehensive senior living technology solution. With our integrated eMAR system, we can provide the technical support your staff needs to administer medication safely and effectively.

It doesn't stop there. We provide a wide range of targeted software and solutions to streamline and improve every part of senior living management — from billing to customer relationship management. Book a demo with us today to discover how our wide variety of solutions can improve your practice.

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