Published Jun 3, 2005
More specifically, what do you do if you're giving a med and the patient or family member asks why it's being given and you don't know? (Let's assume it's not Lasix or something common like that). I'm a new grad (taking NCLEX soon), and I know I'll run across meds that I've never heard of. Am I expected to look up every med I give, if I don't know it? (I know how busy nurses are, so that's why I ask). Do you carry around a pocket-sized drug book? Some advice, please. I don't want to look like an idiot as a new nurse!
UM Review RN, ASN, RN
More specifically, what do you do if you're giving a med and the patient or family member asks why it's being given and you don't know? (Let's assume it's not Lasix or something common like that). I'm a new grad (taking NCLEX soon), and I know I'll run across meds that I've never heard of. Am I expected to look up every med I give, if I don't know it? (I know how busy nurses are, so that's why I ask). Do you carry around a pocket-sized drug book? Some advice, please. I don't want to look like an idiot as a new nurse! Thanks! amy :)
But it is certainly our responsibility to know what we are giving and as much as we can know about it BEFORE we give it. So yes, you are expected as a nurse, to look up every drug you give before you give it. Yes.
OK, although we don't know why every single med is given, we can do our best to find out. Try looking at the patient history and comparing it to the effect the drug has. To the patient (or the family, if they have permission to have this knowledge from the patient) you would say, "This medication is for blood pressure." You usually don't need to spell it out to them, but I will then direct the family to talk to the doctor because after all, the doc prescribed it. If the patient questions the med, then hold it, clarify it, and call the doctor. The patient has the right to refuse, but the patient should be properly informed of the consequences of that refusal if such is the case.
Please be aware that every once in awhile, it is this process that has caused me to find transcription errors--Altace for Actos, for instance, because I took the time to explain the medications to the patient.
In other words, a proactive, informed patient is a good defense against med errors. We want to do the best we can for the patient and this is one way of achieving that goal.
Yes, you need to know what you are giving. I had a handbook on the cart and looked up drugs all the time. I recently shadowed a new graduate who was passing meds like candy and did not know what many of them were for. I was amazed!?? Her med pass went fast and she had time left over at the end of the day--something I rarely ever did.
I agree with Angie O'Plasty, you discover alot of errors that way.
Thank you so much for your replies! Of course in school we always looked up our meds the night before, but I wasn't sure how that all worked once you're working on a floor and you don't pre-lab the night before.
My friend's dad was recently in the hospital, and when she questioned the nurse about what med was being given and why, the nurse didn't know. I DON'T want to be that nurse, so I wanted to know how you avoid that in the "real world".
I have a drug book, so I'll plan to take it with me and keep it with the med cart. Thanks again for your advice!
Daytonite, BSN, RN
Yes, you should look up any drug you don't know before you give it. The unit you work on should have a drug book available. If you use your own keep your eyes on it so it doesn't "walk away".
When I first started working I would look drugs up quickly on the unit. Then when I got home I looked them up again and re-read what was in my drug book. What was really frustrating to me was having to look the same drugs up 3 or 4 times. I would recognize their names, but I just couldn't remember anything else about them. I felt like I was wasting a lot of time back then. Now, that I have a good knowledge base of many drugs a new one isn't as difficult for me to learn.
Before you take any medications in to a patient, check the medication sheet. If there's a med there that you don't know take the opportunity to look it up before you even take it in to the patient. That way, you'll be prepared for questions.
Yep. Look up every drug you don't know. Every time. I work in a unit that does outpatient procedures for the most part so I've been caught with someone breathing down my neck more than once saying aren't you goiing to gve that...and I say hold up, I'm reading on how to administer it, be on it in just a minute.
I have a pocket drug book that is small enough to keep in your pocket. You will find that whatever area of the hospital you work that in most of the meds will be the same ones over and over. After a while you will know most of the common meds for your area and the number you have to look up will be only a couple a week.
You might consider purchasing a pocket pc or PDA and a drug guide that you can put in there. You can keep that with you in your pocket and have instant access. That's what I plan on doing b/c the floors that I will be working on have split halls so I don't have to run back and forth-in case they want more indepth info. You can also print out a medsheet if you get it synced with a printer. Eventually we will know the meds but there are nurses that have doing this for over 20 years that still have to look drugs up.
Yes I always look up any meds that I don't know before I give it, my mentor expects me to do this. I've forgotton as many drugs as I've learnt, but aslong as I know what my patient is on then it doesn't matter. In the clinic room, there is always a couple of BNF's (british national formulary) to look up drugs.
Tweety, BSN, RN
I agree with the above. You must know the rationale behind every drug you're giving.
NEVER EVER! (Yes I'm yelling) answer a patients questions about why she/he is taking a med with "because the doctor ordered it". You need to know the medication, the patients history and their current problems well to answer these questions.
It's tough at first stopping to looking up meds and realizing why they are being given. Soon though, you'll find many common meds on your unit. And it isn't as time consuming as you might think.
Just about all my trauma patients get Lovenox, pepcid and colace and I know those by heart. :)
We have a good internet pharmacology service our hospital subscribes to. I can learn about the medications myself and print out teaching sheets for the patients that ask. This is what I use when I come across meds I don't know. I also use it at discharge for patients to take home with then when I teach them about their scripts.
I've seen nurses with PDAs with drug programs and they love them.
If a pt wants to know more detail about any med, then I bring the book into the room and read to them out of it. If any med is unfamiliar, then I always look it up first.
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