Prescribing errors in a pediatric emergency department

Michael L Rinke, Margaret Moon, John S Clark, Shawna Mudd, Marlene R Miller
Pediatric Emergency Care 2008, 24 (1): 1-8

OBJECTIVES: To determine the frequency, prescriber, and type of prescribing errors in written in-house orders and ambulatory prescriptions in a pediatric emergency department (PED).

METHODS: A 17-day retrospective chart review and a 6-month retrospective ambulatory prescription review in a PED for medications with weight-based dosing. Orders and prescriptions were checked for prescriber identification number, route, weight-based target dose in milligrams per kilogram, frequency, correct dosing, and drug allergies. Narcotics were excluded from the prescription analysis.

RESULTS: Forty-seven (12.5%) of 377 in-house orders and 37 (19.4%) of 191 individual charts contained at least 1 error: 4 (1.1%) orders contained an incorrect dose, 41 (10.8%) were written incorrectly, and 2 (0.5%) contained an incorrect dose and were written incorrectly. Thirty (4.3%) of 696 ambulatory prescriptions contained 1 error: 14 (2.0%) contained an incorrect dose, and 16 (2.3%) were written incorrectly. Pediatric postgraduate year-3 residents had the highest in-house order incorrect dose error rate (1 of 29 orders or 3.5%), and ED pediatric postgraduate year-2 residents had the highest ambulatory prescription incorrect dose error rate (6 of 66 prescriptions or 9.1%). Pediatric ED attending physicians had the highest error rates for writing orders and prescriptions incorrectly, 25% (3 of 12) and 9.7% (3 of 31), respectively. Antibiotics, analgesics, and narcotics were most often involved in errors.

CONCLUSIONS: Prescribing errors are common in both written in-house orders and ambulatory prescriptions in a PED. Targeting safety interventions toward groups with less practice in prescribing pediatric doses and reeducating groups on safe medication writing techniques could decrease this error rate.

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