Whether you work in a privately owned pharmacy in a quiet corner of Philadelphia or a high-volume pharmacy at the front of a superstore chain, you likely have few moments when you are not busy taking calls, filling orders and answering questions for customers. You deal with doctors and insurance companies, and you often have to serve patients who don't feel well and just want some relief.
You know that accuracy in your job may be a matter of life and death for your customer and that a mistake could mean the suspension of your license. Nevertheless, you probably know other pharmacists who have faced disciplinary hearings before the Pennsylvania Pharmacy Board which deemed them incompetent because of a serious mistake. Perhaps you have dodged a bullet more than once, catching a mistake before it caused harm. You are not alone. There are numerous reasons for pharmacy mistakes.
Pressure leads to errors
The advances in medical science allow consumers to take a pill to prevent illness, to treat illness, to address the symptoms of an illness and to counteract the side-effects of other medications. Most Americans take at least one prescription medication on a regular basis, and many take far more than that.
When you review your paperwork at the end of a shift, you may be shocked at how many prescriptions you handle in a day. In a 12-hour shift, the typical pharmacist may fill as many as 450 prescriptions. You may feel pushed to meet a quota each day, and your customers certainly want their medications as fast as possible. This pressure is one factor that contributes to the prevalence of mistakes in prescriptions, including these errors:
- Filling a prescription with the wrong medication
- Instructing the patient to take the wrong dose
- Neglecting to warn the patient of any side effects that may cause harm
- Failing to notice contraindications between the prescribed medicine and other medicines the patient may take
As you get farther into a long shift, you may feel tired and stressed. It may be more difficult for you to keep up with the safeguards in place, such as verifying the patient name and the dosage prescribed.
Communication is key
Poor communication with doctors is another common reason why pharmacists make mistakes. Transcriptions from a doctor's office may contain errors, be unclear or be illegible. You may find yourself attempting to clarify the information through a receptionist at the doctor's office.
There are a number of places along the chain where a mistake can lead to unintentional harm. Protecting your patients and yourself by following protocol and verifying all information is the best way to prevent an error that could place your customers at risk and jeopardize your career as a pharmacist. It is also wise to seek legal advice immediately when faced with accusations of a prescription error.