Aims and objectives: The aim of the study was to determine how graduate nurses use protocols in their medication management activities. The objectives were to: examine the extent of adherence to various protocols in relation to medication activities and determine how the ward environment impacts on graduate nurses' use of protocols to manage patients' medications.
Background: Protocols help newly qualified nurses integrate new knowledge into practice and promote effective decision-making Design. A descriptive prospective qualitative design was used. Methods. Twelve graduate nurses involved in direct patient care in medical, surgical and specialty wards of a metropolitan teaching hospital participated in the study. Participant observations were conducted with the graduate nurses during a two-hour period when medications were being administered to patients. In-depth interviews were conducted with each nurse immediately after observations and demographic data were collected on participating nurses and patients in their care, including all medications prescribed. Protocols associated with medication management activities for the clinical settings were also transcribed.
Results: Six themes were evident from the data: availability and use of protocols, scrutinizing patients' identity before medication administration, double-checking certain medications before administration, writing incident reports, following specific policies and timing the administration of medications.
Conclusion: Graduate nurses adhered to protocols if they were perceived not to impede with other nursing activities. Participants were also more likely to follow protocols if they felt encouraged to make their own decisions and if there was a decreased likelihood that disciplinary action would be involved.
Relevance to clinical practice: Experienced health professionals should encourage graduate nurses to comply with medication protocols and to make clinically reasoned decisions about medication activities. By providing peer support and acting as role models, experienced health professionals can also demonstrate to graduate nurses how effective protocol use is an important component of quality patient care.