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Collaboration between nursing home RNs, LPNs could reduce medication errors

March 15, 2012
by Kevin Kolus
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Nursing home registered nurses (RNs) and license practical nurses (LPNs) often differ in how they identify medication discrepancies when patients are transferred between healthcare settings, according to a recent study by the University of Missouri.

Amy Vogelsmeier, assistant professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and lead author of the study, said that recognizing the distinct differences between RNs and LPNs could lead to fewer medication errors and better patient care in nursing homes, where an estimated 800,000 preventable adverse drug events occur annually. The study is published in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing.

“Right now in the industry, RNs and LPNs often are used interchangeably but inappropriately,” Vogelsmeier said. “The solution is not to replace LPNs with RNs but to create collaborative arrangements in which they work together to maximize the skill sets of each to provide the best possible care for patients.”

Vogelsmeier said that due to poor availability of pharmacists and physicians, both RNs and LPNs can be responsible for medication reconciliation, a process where discrepancies are identified are resolved, as well as other clinical activities to coordinate care once patients enter nursing homes.

The researchers suggested assigning RNs and LPNs to complementary roles that “maximize their unique abilities” to improve patient care and satisfaction.

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