Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

Phone Calls Interrupting Nurses Lead to More Medication Errors, a New Study Shows


Medical professionals face more challenges in 2020 than ever before. Doctors see dozens – some even hundreds – of patients every day, while all members of hospital staff, including nurses, must adapt to the ever-changing demands of new technology in healthcare.

All these factors can cause extreme stress and fatigue in nurses and other healthcare providers. As a result, hospital errors are bound to happen. Medication errors account for a large percentage of medical malpractice lawsuits in Atlanta and other parts of Georgia.

Nurses Make More Medication Errors After Receiving Phone Calls

A recent study has shown a new, previously undiscovered factor in medication mistakes made by nurses in the pediatric intensive care unit. In the 2019 study published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers established a link between nurses receiving calls on their work phones and the increased risk of errors in administering medications.

Researchers concluded that nurses receiving calls on their work phones are more likely to make medical errors in the pediatric ICU. It is worth mentioning that text messages were not associated with errors.

The study was based on data from a pediatric intensive care unit between August 1, 2016, and September 30, 2017. Researchers studied more than 250 nurses who administered medications for over 3,300 patients in that period.

The study looked into the effect of incoming phone calls and texts in the 10 minutes leading up to the administration of medication. The phone calls and texts were received on the mobile phone that was given to nurses by the hospital.

Being interrupted by incoming phone calls substantially increased the likelihood of making drug-related errors. The overall rate of error during medication administration was 3.1% when nurses did not receive phone calls, and 3.7% when they were interrupted by calls.

The study also confirmed that the nurse’s experience plays a major role. The risk of medication errors when interrupted by calls was lower among nurses with more medical experience compared to those who have less than six months of such experience.

Types of Medication Errors

There are at least seven types of medication errors that are prevalent in Georgia hospitals. These mistakes can occur at any time, from the moment a doctor prescribes the medication to the moment a nurse or another medical professional administers the medication.

  1. Prescription errors. The selection of the appropriate medication must always be based on the patient’s symptoms, allergies, use of other drugs, and past medical history. When prescribing a drug, the doctor will also have to specify the correct dosage, form, quantity, route, and rate of admission.
  2. Omission. When a healthcare provider misses a medication dose or fails to give a dose before the next one is scheduled, he or she is committing an omission error.
  3. Wrong time errors. In some cases, medication may be given outside of the predetermined time window.
  4. Improper dosage. When a nurse or doctor administers a greater or lesser amount of a medication than is required, he or she may be committing medical malpractice.
  5. Incorrect administration technique. Some medications should be administered only intravenously, while others must be given to patients orally.
  6. Wrong medication preparation. Many drugs must be formulated before administering them. For example, adding too much or too little diluting solution can cause health complications.
  7. Lack of communication. Many medication errors occur due to a lack of communication between the prescribing physician and other members of the hospital staff.

It is vital to establish your type of medication error before taking legal action. Contact our Atlanta medical malpractice attorneys at the Carroll Law Firm to determine liability in your case. Call at 404-816-4555 to schedule a case review.




Facebook Twitter LinkedIn