Avoiding Common Medication Administration Errors

Tips for Disability Support Workers


Administering medication is a critical responsibility for disability support workers. Proper medication management ensures the health and well-being of persons, but it can also be fraught with potential errors. These mistakes can have severe consequences, including adverse drug reactions, worsening of medical conditions, and even legal implications. Understanding and preventing common medication administration errors is essential to providing safe and effective care. This blog will provide valuable tips to help you identify and prevent these mistakes.


Understanding Common Medication Administration Errors


Before diving into prevention strategies, it’s crucial to understand the types of errors that commonly occur. Medication errors can be broadly categorised into the following types:

  1. Prescription Errors: Incorrect medication, dosage, or frequency prescribed by a healthcare provider.
  2. Dispensing Errors: Medication dispensed incorrectly by a pharmacist.
  3. Administration Errors: Mistakes made during the actual administration of the medication, including incorrect dosage, wrong time, incorrect route, or wrong patient.
  4. Documentation Errors: Failure to document medication administration accurately, leading to repeated doses or missed medications.


Tips for Identifying and Preventing Medication Administration Errors


1. Follow the “Six Rights” of Medication Administration


The “Six Rights” is a fundamental principle in medication administration that aims to prevent errors by ensuring:

  • Right Patient: Confirm the identity of the person using at least two identifiers (e.g., name and date of birth).
  • Right Medication: Verify the medication name and ensure it matches the prescription.
  • Right Dose: Double-check the dosage prescribed and measure it accurately.
  • Right Time: Administer the medication at the correct time as prescribed.
  • Right Route: Ensure the medication is given through the correct route (oral, topical, injection, etc.).
  • Right documentation: Ensure that the persons’ medication administration is accurately documented in the relevant records.


2. Double-Check Prescriptions and Labels


Even if you trust the prescribing healthcare provider and pharmacist, it’s always a good practice to double-check:

  • Prescription Details: Ensure the prescription matches the person’s needs, and there are no discrepancies.
  • Medication Labels: Verify the label on the medication bottle or package to confirm it matches the prescription.


3. Use Technology Wisely


Many Providers use electronic health records (EHRs) and medication administration records (MARs) to reduce errors. Utilise these technologies effectively:

  • EHRs: Regularly update and review electronic health records to ensure accurate and current information.
  • Barcode Scanning: Use barcode scanning systems when available to verify the correct medication and dosage.


4. Educate and Train Regularly


Continuous education and training are vital in keeping up with best practices and new protocols:

  • Errors In-Service Training: Participate in regular in-service training sessions on medication administration topics such as the common errors to avoid.
  • Refresher training: Undergo periodic competency assessments to ensure your skills and knowledge are up-to-date.


5. Maintain Clear Communication


Clear communication with healthcare providers, persons, and their families is crucial:

  • Clarify Orders: If a prescription or instruction is unclear, don’t hesitate to contact the prescribing healthcare provider for clarification.
  • Inform Persons: Explain the purpose and potential side effects of the medication to persons, ensuring they understand why they are taking it.
  • Report Issues: Communicate any concerns or observed side effects promptly to the healthcare provider.


6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment


Administering medication requires full attention:

  • Quiet Area: Choose a quiet, well-lit area free from interruptions to prepare and administer medication.
  • Focus: Avoid multitasking while handling medications to reduce the risk of errors.


7. Keep Accurate Records


Proper documentation is critical in preventing medication errors:

  • Medication Administration Records (MARs): Accurately document each administered dose in the MAR.
  • Update Immediately: Update records immediately after administration to avoid forgotten or duplicated entries.
  • Monitor for Side Effects: Document any side effects or adverse reactions observed after administering medication.


8. Understand and Follow Protocols


Each facility will have its protocols and procedures for medication administration:

· Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Familiarise yourself with and follow your facility’s SOPs for medication administration.

· Policy Manuals: Refer to policy manuals for specific guidelines and protocols related to medication management.


9. Handle Medication with Care


Proper handling of medication is essential to maintain its efficacy and safety:

  • Storage: Store medications according to the manufacturer’s instructions, usually in a cool, dry place or refrigerated if necessary.
  • Expiration Dates: Check expiration dates regularly and dispose of expired medications properly.
  • Hand Hygiene: Always wash your hands before and after handling medication to prevent contamination.


10. Be Vigilant with High-Risk Medications


Certain medications carry a higher risk of causing significant harm if administered incorrectly. Exercise extra caution with these and other high-risk medications.

  • Double-Check Procedures: Implement double-check procedures for high-risk medications, involving another qualified professional to verify the correct medication and dosage.


11. Encourage the participation of the person


Involving the person (if able) in their medication management can help prevent errors:

  • Medication Knowledge: Educate the person about their medications, including the name, purpose, and potential side effects.


12. Learn from Mistakes


Despite best efforts, errors can still occur. It’s important to learn from them:

  • Incident Reporting: Report any medication errors promptly through the appropriate channels.
  • Root Cause Analysis: Conduct a root cause analysis to understand why the error occurred and how to prevent it in the future.
  • Continuous Improvement: Use the insights gained from error analysis to improve practices and protocols continuously.


13. Stay Updated on Best Practices


Healthcare is a constantly evolving field, and staying updated on best practices is essential:

  • Professional Development: Engage in continuous professional development through blogs, courses both online and face to face.
  • Reading: Keep up with the latest research and guidelines related to medication administration related to your jurisdiction.


14. Develop a Safety Culture


Fostering a culture of safety within your team or organisation can significantly reduce medication errors:

  • Team Communication: Encourage open and honest communication about medication concerns and errors.
  • Safety Initiatives: Participate in safety initiatives and encourage colleagues to do the same.
  • Supportive Environment: Create a supportive environment where staff feel comfortable reporting errors without fear of punishment.



Medication administration is a critical task that requires meticulous attention to detail and adherence to best practices. By understanding common medication administration errors and implementing the tips outlined in this blog, disability support workers can significantly reduce the risk of errors and ensure the safety and well-being of their persons.

Remember, the key to avoiding medication administration errors lies in vigilance, continuous education, effective communication, and fostering a culture of safety. As a disability support worker, your role in medication management is vital, and your commitment to excellence can make a profound difference in the lives of those you support.


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