Medication Administration and the Complexity of Nursing Workflow

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Labor Management

Sandra Garrett
Assistant Professor
Clemson University

Medication administration is an increasingly complex process and a crucial area for investigation in order to improve patient safety. This presentation describes the methods used at a regional hospital to examine the process of medication administration, before and after a mobile medication system was implemented to reduce work complexity.

Medication administration is an increasingly complex process, influenced by the number of medications on the market, the number of medications prescribed for each patient, and numerous administration policies and procedures. Adverse events initiated by medication error are a crucial area for investigation to improve patient safety. This project looked at the complexity of the medication administration process at a regional hospital and the effect of two types of medication distribution systems. A reduction in work complexity and time spent gathering medication and supplies, is a highlight of this work; but even more importantly is determining what barriers to safety and efficiency exist in the medication administration process and the impact of barcode scanning and other technologies.

Just as important are the methods used in this study, including but not limited to process flow mapping and information flow and interaction analyses. The visual nature of the data documentation and analysis enabled a dialogue between engineering and medical professionals by transcending discipline specific vocabularies. The concept of mobile medication units is attractive to clinicians; however it is only one solution to the problems with medication administration. The implementation results are presented as a case study and discussion focuses on transferability to other facilities.