Uploaded by joannjeannot981

NUR 2390 Written Assignment

Written Assignment: Medication Error Analysis in the Geriatric Patient
Joann Jeannot
Barbara H. Hagan School of Nursing and Health Sciences: Molloy College
NUR 2390 01: Human Growth and Development across the Lifespan
Dr. Andrea Spatarella
November 15th, 2021
As healthcare providers, nurses have a great deal of responsibility that weighs on their
shoulders – they have a duty to not just their patients, but their patients’ family members and
other healthcare providers as well. One of those major responsibilities that they are tasked with is
the safe administration of medication to patients. It is important to emphasize that nurses are the
last line of defense between the medications and the patients themselves. This is particularly
important with patients who are in a clinical setting such as a hospital, as the prescribed
medication will not be administered until the nurse gets a hold of it. Once a provider orders and
prescribes a medication for a patient, what happens afterwards is completely out of their scope of
practice, although this may depend on the state laws in which the provider practices in.
As student nurses in an undergraduate nursing program, one of the required courses that
must be taken is Pharmacology, a course in which we not only learn about various medications –
including their uses and methods of action, but also the proper administration of some of these
medications. In addition to learning about different types of medications, one important concept
that is emphasized and stressed frequently in Pharmacology would be the Five Plus Five Rights
of Drug Administration, which includes: right patient, right drug, right dose, right time, and right
route. Some further responsibilities for the nurse to adhere to or consider when preparing to
administer medications would include the right assessment, right documentation, patient’s right
to education, right evaluation, and patient’s right to refuse. Each of these components of the Five
Rights are essential for nurses to follow as any misstep, hindrance, or deviation from just one of
them along the way may result in dire consequences, such as serious injury or even death to a
patient. In fact, as Abrahamson and Anderson (2017) highlight, medication errors are the third
leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for about 251,000 deaths annually.
One such case of patient death due to a medication error involved a nurse who injected a
patient with a paralytic medication called Vecuronium instead of the intended medication, a
sedative called Versed. RaDonda Vaught, a 35-year-old nurse who worked for Vanderbilt
University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee was charged with reckless homicide after a
December 2017 medication error resulted in the death of a 75-year-old patient named Charlene
Murphey. Murphey, a patient diagnosed with a cerebral hematoma who was scheduled to
undergo a PT scan, was prescribed 2 mg of Versed (midazolam hydrochloride) to treat her
anxiety related to the procedure (Loller, 2019; Peeples, 2019). Versed, which induces
preoperative sedation or amnesia and controls preoperative anxiety, results in a calming effect
that relaxes the skeletal muscles in patients and may in some cases induce sleep with a higher
dosage (Jones and Bartlett, 2015). Vaught looked for the medication in a nearby electronic
medication cabinet but was unable to find the drug in the patient’s profile. This was because she
was searching for the prescribed drug by its brand name when the machine was programmed to
find drugs by their generic names (Leone, 2021). When she couldn’t find the Versed, Vaught
then proceeded to activate the override function of the medication cabinet by entering the letters
“VE” into the search field, and then without thinking, grabbed the first drug that appeared with
those two letters, which was the drug Vecuronium bromide (Institute for Safe Medication
Practices, 2019). This drug helps the skeletal muscles relax during surgical operations or
mechanical ventilations, but the unintended use of it can result in paralysis, ultimately leading to
respiratory arrest and death, which is what unfortunately occurred with Mrs. Murphey (Food and
Drug Administration, 2018).
While some may view Vaught’s error as minor, her actions and clinical judgement were
grossly negligent. Vaught even admitted to investigators that she was distracted while speaking
with a new employee while this incident took place. There were also many red flags throughout
the process of 1) finding the medication 2) preparing the medication for use and 3) administering
the medication itself that led to this horrific situation transpiring. One red flag that Vaught
should’ve caught or noticed while preparing the medication, which is something that the
prosecution emphasized, was that the vial bottle for the Vecronium Bromide medication is red
with a cap that reads in plain bold letters: “WARNING: PARALYZING AGENT” (Cooke, 2019;
Morris, 2021). If she had paid attention to what medication she was preparing to give her patient
instead of directing her attention elsewhere, she would’ve noticed the clear warning in boldfaced letters for this high alert medication. Another red flag would be the fact that she didn’t scan
the medication to put into the patient’s electronic medical record (EMR). If she did, the error
would have appeared in the computer system, and she would’ve noticed it. Other red flags along
the way include the fact that the Vecronium Bromide appeared in the computer system multiple
times with the words “PARALYZING AGENT” in bold letters, which Vaught failed to notice,
the fact that Vaught didn’t realize that the intended medication Versed comes in liquid form
instead of powder form like the drug actually given, and the fact that Vaught would have needed
to reconstitute and shack the bottle of the medication she picked up, which isn’t required for
Versed. Ultimately, the death of Mrs. Murphy lies solely with Vaught, as she didn’t follow the
standard protocols indicated in the nursing scope of practice regarding medication administration
(Shelton, 2019). The error occurred because instead of paying attention and attending to her
designated task – a very important task at that, Vaught allowed herself to be distracted by a
conversation with a new employee. It didn’t have to get this far if Vaught took this task seriously
by going through the 5 Rights of Medication Administration, which would’ve caught the error
early on. This error could’ve been prevented even earlier if Vaught had used her clinical
judgement when she couldn’t find the Versed in the medication cabinet. She could’ve consulted
with another nurse for assistance in what to do in this situation, or she could’ve called the
pharmacy to confirm the order for clarity. This wasn’t an emergency, so Vaught could’ve taken
her time trying to find the medication instead of cutting corners by overriding the electronic
medication system. Sadly, an innocent life that will never return was lost due to these actions.
Like other healthcare professionals, nurses are human, and as such will make mistakes.
That is why it is extremely important that they be very cautious and on high alert when
administering medications, especially high alert medications that can pose severe harm to
patients. Vaught’s case serves as an unfortunate, but valuable teaching moment for all nursing
students, as it serves as a prime example of what actions nurses shouldn’t commit when dealing
with such high alert medications. Her case also emphasizes how important it is to fully follow all
standard protocols and procedures when it comes to nursing duties and responsibilities such as
medication administration. Allowing distractions and cutting corners is dangerous and can
potentially cause patients serious harm, or even death. Nurses can and will make mistakes, but
there are many things that can be done to reduce the number of instances of these mistakes,
which will ultimately improve patient safety long-term.
Anderson, J. G., & Abrahamson, K. (2017). Your Health Care May Kill You: Medical
Errors. Studies in health technology and informatics, 234, 13–17.
Cooke, K. (2021, July 26). Prosecutors: Former Vanderbilt Nurse missed multiple warnings
before giving Patient Deadly Drug. WSMV Nashville. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
Food and Drug Administration. (2018, July). Vecuronium bromide for injection. Retrieved
October 23, 2021, from
Institute For Safe Medication Practices. (2019, February 14). Another round of the blame game:
A paralyzing criminal indictment that recklessly "overrides" just culture. Institute For Safe
Medication Practices. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
Jones & Bartlett Learning. (2015). 2015 Nurse's Drug Handbook (14th ed.).
Leone, J. (2021, July 26). Nurse who killed patient with Wrong Medicine Loses Nursing License.
WHIO TV 7 and WHIO Radio. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
Loller, T. (2019, February 20). Nurse charged in fatal drug-swap error pleads not guilty. AP
NEWS. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from https://apnews.com/article/health-tennessee-usnews-nashville-homicide-bbc0c863fba146658786e4b91cb5dbc4.
Morris, C. (2021, May 28). Trial date set for former Vanderbilt nurse accused of giving fatal
dose of wrong medicine to patient. WSMV Nashville. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
Peeples, L. (2019, January 8). Pharmacypracticenews.com. Retrieved October 24, 2021, from
Shelton, C. (2019, March 28). Investigation: Former vandy nurse admits she 'f----D' up, multiple
overrides lead to death. WZTV. Retrieved November 11, 2021, from