The average nursing home patient is often prescribed multiple medications to treat and manage the health conditions common among older patients. If a healthcare professional prescribes an incorrect dose or administers a medication that is known to have a negative interaction with a drug the patient is already taking, it can cause serious harm to the patient.
Unfortunately, this type of medication error is not uncommon in nursing homes across the country. Medication reconciliation, the process of establishing a comprehensive list of all medications that a patient is currently taking and comparing that list to a physician’s orders, aims to ensure that the patient is taking the correct medications when transferred from a hospital setting to a nursing home facility.
RNs vs. LPNs – Education Differences
Nurses provide much of the day-to-day care for nursing home residents. However, not all nurses have the same level of training and education. For example, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) provide basic nursing care including checking blood pressure, changing catheters, helping patients with bathing, and keeping records on patient health. Registered nurses (RNs) administer medications, consult with physicians, operate medical equipment, and help educate patients on how to manage their illness.
While LPNs are licensed and certified, RNs must earn either an Associate’s Degree in Registered Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, as well as become licensed. Research shows that RNs are better qualified than LPNs to catch medication errors that could jeopardize the health of patients.
RNs v. LPNs – Practical Differences
Researchers at the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri interviewed nurses from 12 nursing homes in the Midwest to find out how RNs and LPNs describe their role in the medication reconciliation process and how they identify medication errors. They found that RNs expressed a greater concern for accuracy, safety, and understanding of the patient’s condition, whereas LPNs were more likely to make assumptions about medication orders. In addition, LPNs were less likely to be able to recognize subtle changes in a patient’s condition.
According to an Associate Professor at the Sinclair School of Nursing, while RNs and LPNs both offer valuable experience and qualifications to nursing home residents, RNs have a more advanced level of education, which enables them to better handle a range of complex processes, including medication reconciliation. Nursing home administrators should keep this in mind when making staffing changes or hiring new staff. It is in the best interest of the patient to have the most qualified practitioner managing the patient’s medication and overall safety.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Medical Negligence
If you or a loved one has become injured or become ill due to a medication error, contact an experienced Baltimore medical malpractice lawyer at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Our experienced and compassionate team will investigate the details of your case and determine who was responsible for the medication error. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-457-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Towson, allowing us to represent medical malpractice victims in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.