More on Quality and Safety

Registered Nurses more likely to pinpoint medication issues, lowering risk of harm or rehospitalizations

Researchers stressed that the most qualified practitioners should be assigned to handle medication orders to keep patients as safe as possible.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Nursing care experts from the University of Missouri have found that registered nurses are generally better equipped than licensed practical nurses to identify discrepancies that could cause residents harm.

Medication reconciliation is a safety practice meant to identify medication order discrepancies when patients transition from hospitals to nursing homes. Nurses serve on the front lines of this practice, yet not all nurses have the same education and preparedness to ensure resident safety.

[Also: Health Affairs: Millennials almost twice as likely to be registered nurses]

With increased consumerism in healthcare, the findings have implications for healthcare organizations seeking to maximize their patient satisfaction metrics and avoid unnecessary rehospitalizations.

Complications from medication order discrepancies pose a significant risk to patients, the research found. Knowing how staff are handling those medication orders can play a big part in improving care quality and safety.

[Also: More nurses earning bachelor's degrees, but numbers still short of national goals]

The research team looked at how RNs and LPNs described their roles in medication reconciliation and their rationale for identifying medication order discrepancies. The researchers interviewed nurses working in 12 different Midwestern nursing homes.

Nurses reported varying demands in regard to reviewing medication orders, such as communicating with hospital staff or considering nursing home rules and regulations. But when performing medication reconciliation, RNs were more concerned about accuracy, safety and knowing the resident's clinical condition.

They found LPNs were more concerned about time and more likely to make assumptions about medication orders. LPNs were also more likely to fail to recognize the complexities of residents' medical conditions and rely on rules to guide decisions.

The authors stressed that both RNs and LPNs were valuable assets when it came to patient care. What gave RNs the edge was their education. They stressed that the most qualified practitioners should be assigned to handle medication orders into order to keep patients as safe as possible.

Twitter: @JELagasse
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