Paramedic self-reported medication errors

Prehosp Emerg Care. Jan-Mar 2007;11(1):80-4. doi: 10.1080/10903120601021358.


Background: Continuing quality improvement (CQI) reviews reflect that medication administration errors occur in the prehospital setting. These include errors involving dose, medication, route, concentration, and treatment.

Methods: A survey was given to paramedics in San Diego County. The survey tool was established on the basis of previous literature reviews and questions developed with previous CQI data.

Results: A total of 352 surveys were returned, with the paramedics reporting a mean of 8.5 years of field experience. They work an average of 11.0 shifts/month with an average of 25.4 hours and 6.7 calls/shift. Thirty-two (9.1%) responding paramedics reported committing a medication error in the last 12 months. Types of errors included dose-related errors (63%), protocol errors (33%), wrong route errors (21%), and wrong medication errors (4%). Issues identified in contributing to the errors include failure to triple check, infrequent use of the medication, dosage calculation error, and incorrect dosage given. Fatigue, training, and equipment setup of the drug box were not listed as any of the contributing factors. The majority of these errors were self-reported to their CQI representative (79.1%), with 8.3% being reported by the base hospital radio nurse, 8.3% found upon chart review, and 4.2% noted by paramedic during call but never reported.

Conclusions: Nine percent of paramedics responding to an anonymous survey report medication errors in the last 12 months, with 4% of these errors never having been reported in the CQI process. Additional safeguards must continue to be implemented to decrease the incidence of medication errors.

MeSH terms

  • California
  • Emergency Medical Technicians*
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors*
  • Truth Disclosure*