A different way to take your pills

“Hey! Let’s be careful out there!” – Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, Hill Street Blues

You always, always, always need someone looking out for you while you are in the hospital. A trusted friend, someone who will look out for you. If you are under the influence of any kind of antistetic and not thinking straight, they can be your “second brain.” Later, when you have your higher thinking skills back, you can be your own advocate by keeping a notebook within reach and writing down the names of staff, the information they give you, your diagnosis, and any medications you receive.

The prescription process is complicated – it is designed to be, to prevent both fraud and medical errors – but mistakes can still happen. And they happen more often than you think. The experts say that on average, there is one prescription drug error, per patient, per day in US hospitals.

Let that thought rattle around in your head for a while.

But there is a simple step that you can take to lower the chances of receiving the wrong drug. Can you guess what it is?

Before I give the answer, let’s think about how you usually receive medication while in the hospital. It takes less than 30 seconds and you probably don’t even think about it – the nurse come into your room with a plastic cup containing your pills and a glass of water. You dutifully swallow the pills and follow it with the water. And you never get to see the original pill containers.

Your nurse prepares the medication at the Nurse’s Station desk, and it has been done that way for as long as I can remember. But to increase your safety, why not do it a little differently. Politely ask the nurse to bring your medication into your room in the original containers. And this is one of those time when you have to measure your words and ask politely, because if you don’t, most people automatically become defensive. I know I don’t like to be accused of doing something incorrectly. And I certainly don’t like to be told “You’re doing it wrong!” before I even get started! So this is when you need your best negotiation skills… and a little persuasion.

But you don’t have to accept a negative answer. Be polite – but firm. After all, those medications are going in your body!

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