In Seattle’s Children Hospital, a nurse gives a baby an overdose of calcium resulting in the baby’s death. A 30 year old dies in the United Kingdom, having just given birth to a son, after being given a powerful anesthetic directly via a drip. It was later reported that the storage of drugs at the hospital was ‘chaotic’.
Improving patient safety has always been a prime concern for established hospitals all over the world but incidences like those mentioned above occur due to both the staff’s neglect and the lack of organization of the drugs. The fault lies with the system and the individual. Individuals can be monitored by the management but what about the system itself? A study by the University of Chicago proposed the use of coloured labels to avoid accidental deaths and improve patient safety.
In case of emergencies, it has been noticed that, in the urgency of the matter, doctors or nurses tend to give the label a cursory glance which results in drug infusion errors and fatally ill patients. If coloured labels are used, the process will not only become easily accessible to the hospital staff but will eventually result in improved efficiency. Each class of drugs should have different coloured labels and designs that the entire staffs are aware of. The following plan can be implemented in any hospital, medical centre or clinic to improve patient safety.
The hospital pharmacist should plan out the entire procedure and prescribe different coloured labels to different drugs, e.g. purple coloured labels for Morphine. The list of drugs is endless but so is the list of colours. Several lists of the prescribed colours and drugs should be printed out and handed out to nurses, doctors, internees and pasted in the emergency rooms and ICU walls to familiarise everyone with the design. Now when a nurse picks up morphine for a patient she can have double checks of assurance with both the colour and the printed text on the label.
The hospital staff should be given training in the use of drugs and their dosages with regard to coloured labels. Activities with volunteers and hypothetical situations should be created to test if the time constraint in critical conditions is aided by the introduction of coloured labels.
As soon as the hospital staff is fully equipped and familiar with coloured labels on drug bottles, the policy for use of coloured labels should be implemented. Quickness and precision will be a noted factor and once the word spreads- the hospital will be praised by many for its safe methods of drug infusion.
The results will clearly show the vast improvement in patient safety once the policy of use of sticky coloured labels is implemented. This method is slowly progressing in hospitals and medical centres alike and is seen to be the most convenient, efficient and safe method for drug labelling.
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