Iatrogenic medication errors in a paediatric intensive care unit in Durban, South Africa
Background. Iatrogenic medication errors due to calculation errors are an under-reported concern in children.
Objective. To determine the incidence and source of iatrogenic medication errors in a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Methods. A prospective study was conducted in the PICU at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, Durban, South Africa, over a 3-month period in 2014. Medication-related calculation skills of medical practitioners and nurses were assessed through the voluntary anonymous completion of a questionnaire. Medication errors were recorded either spontaneously or by review of all electronic records of admissions. Errors were classified as delays in the decision to prescribe, prescribing mistakes, dispensing errors and administration issues.
Results. Of 25 staff members sampled, only 6 (24.0%) were able to complete all medication calculations accurately, while 44.0% (n=11) were unable to answer three or more questions correctly. Errors most frequently encountered included failure to calculate rates of infusion and the conversion of mL to mEq or mL to mg for potassium, phenobarbitone and digoxin. Of the 117 children admitted, 111 (94.9%) were exposed to at least one medication error. Two or more medication errors occurred in 34.1% of cases. Of the errors, 73.8% were detected on chart review and 26.2% by spontaneous reporting. Overall, 89.2% of errors occurred during prescribing, with 10.0% having a ≥10-fold increase or decrease in dosage calculations. Only 2.7% of medication errors were reported as resulting in adverse events.
Conclusion. Therapeutic skills of healthcare professionals working in the PICU need to be improved to decrease iatrogenic medication errors.
Copyright remains in the Author’s name. The work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial Works License. Authors are required to complete and sign an Author Agreement form that outlines Author and Publisher rights and terms of publication. The Agreement form should be uploaded along with other submissions files and any submission will be considered incomplete without it [forthcoming].
Material submitted for publication in the SAMJ is accepted provided it has not been published or submitted for publication elsewhere. Please inform the editorial team if the main findings of your paper have been presented at a conference and published in abstract form, to avoid copyright infringement. The SAMJ does not hold itself responsible for statements made by the authors.
Previously published images
If an image/figure has been previously published, permission to reproduce or alter it must be obtained by the authors from the original publisher and the figure legend must give full credit to the original source. This credit should be accompanied by a letter indicating that permission to reproduce the image has been granted to the author/s. This letter should be uploaded as a supplementary file during submission.