Prescription Medications – Avoid Common Mistakes


According to Consumer Affairs*, it’s estimated that 7,000 deaths occur every year because of incorrect prescriptions. These are astounding statistics. And yes, I have caught a pharmacist making a very big mistake. Our son Nick was supposed to get 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of a medication, and the label said to give him 1 ml. That’s 5 times less than he was supposed to get! I had remembered what the doctor had prescribed, looked at the little tiny bottle that was given to me and wondered how I was supposed to get 30 teaspoons out of this thing. That’s when I noticed the mistake.

I’m no stranger to having to administer lots of medications. Our son Nick has been on prescription medications since birth, and he had a kidney transplant on August 15, 2000. Since then, I’ve been responsible for administering those life saving meds. There’s not much more stressful than knowing that you simply cannot forget a medication, or administer the wrong amount. I can just about do it with my eyes closed now. But when I first started I had no clue what questions I should be asking, what supplies I should have on hand, or how to stay organized so I didn’t make a mistake.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve seen mistakes made, and I’ve made a few myself. This article is about what I’ve learned along the way. It is not to be construed as medical advice, but rather personal opinion. Please check with your own doctor and pharmacist to make sure you are doing everything that you need to do in order to avoid medication mistakes.

Beginning at the Doctors Office

It all starts here. There are several questions that you should be prepared to answer, and several questions that you should be prepared to ask. Every single one of them is extremely important. Keep a journal. Bring it with you to all doctor appointments.

Questions You Will Need to Answer

Patient’s medical history: It’s a good idea to keep a journal of the patient’s medical history. This should include current and past illnesses and/or medical conditions, surgeries, current and past medications, any allergies to food or medications. When visiting the doctor, a nurse will ask several questions that will help the doctor. Having a journal will ensure that you don’t leave anything out.

Family medical history: It’s also very important that you know about your family medical history. I realize that sometimes adoption is involved and it’s simply not possible. But whenever it is possible, get the family medical history for both sides of the family (maternal and paternal). So if you’re bringing your child to the doctor, you want to know both the history on your side of the family and your child’s father/mother side of the family.

List of current medications: When you visit the doctor, you will be asked for a list of current medications, including the dose. It’s much easier to bring a list with you and just hand it over to the nurse taking the information than it is to try to remember everything right there on the spot. I like to use index cards written in pencil. He cards hold up well, you can erase pencil, and you can keep the card with the medications when you’re not using it at the doctor’s office.

Look at the medication bottle(s) and write down the name of the medication, how much (volume) you are administering and how many mg. per unit. This way the doctor will know the exact amount that is being taken. For example, if a prescription has 1 mg per ml, and you are administering 5 ml, the doctor will know that the patient is getting 5 mg.

Questions to Ask the Doctor. Write Down What the Doctor Says!

When prescribed a new medication, there are several things you will need to know. You’ll want to check what the doctor says to you against what the bottle of medication says when you pick it up at the pharmacy.

While talking with the doctor about having a new prescription filled, write down the name, the volume to be administered, and total mg’s per dose that will be administered: The bottle will probably say something like 1mg/cc. If you’re new to this, or you’re not good at math, ask the doctor exactly what the bottle that you will be getting should say. For example, if Nick gets 5 mg of Prednisolone every other day, and there’s 1 mg. per ml, then he should be getting 5 ml’s of the medication for a total of 5 mg. every other day.

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