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Nursing students receive extra training on medication safety

January 25, 2016
KOKOMO, Ind. — A nurse is the last line of defense between a patient and the wrong medication.

At Indiana University Kokomo, student nurses receive specialized training in preventing medication errors through a partnership with the Purdue College of Pharmacy.

Angela Duggins, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in December, learned firsthand how important this education is; when she and her supervising nurse at her capstone experience caught a medication error caused by a data entry error.

“We as nurses are the final checkpoint,” she said. “Once we dispense the medication, it’s in the patient. It’s a huge responsibility to be that final person to check before the patient takes the medicine, and this class helped me grasp that idea. I really feel like it prepared me for that experience, and made me more aware of the possibilities.”

The IU Kokomo School of Nursing is the first in Indiana to offer the Medication Safety Essentials (MSE) program, as a required component of a leadership in nursing class taken by second semester seniors. Each student receives a certificate of completion when done, and can note it on his or her résumé when applying for jobs.

“Our graduates have an edge when they go into practice because they have knowledge and additional training not required in other nursing schools,” said Linda Wallace, dean of the nursing school. “It makes them more marketable, and also prepares them to take and pass their licensing examination.”

The future nurses learn the prescribing process: check medications to be sure what is in the cart matches the prescription, and determine it’s a safe dosage that doesn’t interfere with other medications being taken. They also learn how to question a pharmacist or physician if an error is suspected.

“Everyone, from the physician prescribing the medicine, to the pharmacist dispensing it, to the nurse giving it to the patient, is part of a checks and balances system,” Wallace said. “No matter where you are in the process, you need to check to be sure the medication being given to the patient is safe and effective. The nurse is the last person who can prevent an error.”

Students complete 15 lessons, each of which includes a 45-minute video on topics including effective interprofessional communication, establishing a culture of safety, technology, medication transitions of care, opioids and pain management, and others.

Nursing faculty learned about the program at an Indiana Hospital Association conference. The association piloted the program at IU Kokomo in fall 2014, with a seven-module program completed by 38 students. It rolled out an updated version in spring 2015, following feedback from faculty and students.

Lynda Narwold, assistant dean for the R.N. to B.S.N. program, said data shows the program has a positive impact. Pharmacology accounts for nearly 20 percent of the National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN), the required exam for licensure.

The May 2015 graduating class, which took 15 modules, had a 94 percent first-time NCLEX pass rate.

“We are doing everything we can to give our students comprehensive preparation for the licensing exam,” Narwold said. “This is one more tool we can give them to help them be successful.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 01/25/2016