If you are hospitalized, you may not be feeling strong enough to take an active role in medication use. Often it's family members who provide the comfort and support needed to promote your return to good health. In either case, you rely on the hospital staff to ensure that medications are administered correctly and on time.
Hospitals are deeply aware of this responsibility to patients and families. They have systems of checks and balances in place to make sure medications are used safely and effectively. Each medication order is checked and double-checked by pharmacy and nursing staff, and medication records are often maintained on computer systems.
Even during this critical time, however, you can do things to help ensure safe medication use. If you are too ill or tired, your family member or caregiver may be able to help.
- When you are admitted to the hospital, bring a list of medications you are taking. If there isn't time to make a list, bring the medications. Keep them in their containers.
- Each time a new medication is given to you, ask to see what the medication looks like (notice the shape or color of the tablets or capsules, the color of liquids and intravenous medications) and how often it is administered.
- If a nurse comes to replace and I.V. solution or administer a medication, ask what it is for. If a dose is not administered on time, ring the nursing station. If the nurse gives you a green tablet and you think it should be orange, question it.
- In some cases, the answers are simple. For example, if you've been taking a brand-name product at home and the hospital uses a generic brand of the same medication, the color and size of the tablet may be different. In other cases, asking questions can prevent a medication error.