Medication Safety

by Cathy Tallen, RN, and Mary Urquhart, RN


One of the most common types of medical mistakes has to do with medication errors – when patients take too many, too few, or the wrong pills. Medication errors can be very serious and lead to serious complications, admission to the hospital or even death. The good news is that patients and family members can help prevent medication errors, both at home and in the hospital.

Many medication errors occur at “transition points” such as when patients enter the hospital, move from one room to another, or leave the hospital to go home. There are some ways you can help prevent medication errors at these transition points.

At Brattleboro Memorial Hospital we are taking steps to focus on safety around the use of medications, including extra focus on your medications at those times.

Prevent Medication Errors

You can help prevent errors by knowing about all the medications you take. This can be hard to do. To help, make a list of all your medications. Bring this list with you each time you see a doctor or other health care provider, and ask them to update the list.

We have created a form you can use. It is started when you are admitted to the hospital, and is available here on the BMH website, click here and/or from your doctor’s office.

Whatever form you use, your medication list should include:

  • Names of all your medications (include over-the-counter, vitamins, and herbal remedies)
  • Dosages (how much you take of each medication)
  • Time (when you take each medication)
  • Route or ways you take each medication (such as a pill, patch, or liquid)

As a patient at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, this list is referred to by your doctor when you are admitted; if you are transferred from one unit to another; and when you leave the hospital. When you are discharged from BMH, we want you to know exactly what to take or not take from your original list, as well as anything new.

Ways to make sure your medication list is up-to-date and avoid mistakes:

  • Ask the doctor or nurse if your list includes all the medications you take now, and ask them to update your list each visit.
  • Make changes on your list each time you start or stop taking a medication.
  • Ask your pharmacist to review your medication list and make any needed changes.
  • Make sure that the medications you are taking do not interact with one another. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for help if you aren’t sure.
  • Try to use the same pharmacy for all your prescriptions and refills, so that your pharmacist can tell you about medications that you should not take at the same time.
  • Throw away all medications you no longer take.

  • Bring your medication list each time you go to the doctor’s office, hospital, emergency room, or clinic.
  • If you are too sick to do so yourself, ask a family member to show the medication list to your doctors and nurses.
  • Make sure your family has your doctor’s name and phone number. This way, they can help the doctors and nurses find out what medications you take.
  • When you leave the hospital, talk with the doctor or nurse about the medications you will take at home. This is also a good time to ask why you need to take these medications.