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Study posits link between phone use and nurses' medication errors

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics has analyzed the possible link between distracted behavior in nurses and the rate of error. Georgia residents can probably see how distractions in the medical field can lead to serious problems, even injuries and death.

Researchers focused on 257 nurses in pediatric intensive care units and 3,308 patients whom they encountered. Roughly half of the nurses received a call on their phone 10 minutes before administering medication to a patient. Those who were thus distracted had an error rate of 3.7% while those who were uninterrupted made mistakes at a rate of 3.1%. One cannot say for certain, though, if distraction caused the errors.

The error rate also increased during night shifts, among nurses with less than six months' experience in PICUs and among nurses caring for multiple patients, at least one of whom requires mechanical ventilation and arterial catheters. On the other hand, the error rate did not change when nurses received a text message instead of a call.

The way to avoid phone distraction is obvious. Nurses should keep their phone out of reach and on silent mode. To avoid errors, nurses should double-check medication amounts and patient records as well as whether they have the right patient to begin with.

Medication errors can provide grounds for a malpractice case, but there are several requirements that must be met. Victims must show, for instance, that they followed all the directions of the nurse, doctor or other medical professional who made the error. To see if they can file a claim, victims may want a legal evaluation. If retained, the lawyer may speak on their behalf either at the negotiation table or in the courtroom so that a reasonable amount in damages might be achieved.

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