According to a study done by the University of New Mexico, trauma centers that did not have a pharmacist on staff were 13 times likelier to make a prescription medication error than those that did.
The results were recorded over three months in 2009. Without a pharmacist present to review a patient's drug therapy, 137 medication errors occurred, as opposed to only 6 when a pharmacist was on hand.
The most common errors were dosage mistakes, medications given without orders, or administered incorrectly. These errors occurred most often with antibiotics, but were also common with pain medications, cardiac prescriptions and gastrointestinal drugs.
In cases of error, the pharmacists were able to make dosage corrections before patient injury occurred. Possible interactions and drug alternatives, when suggested by the pharmacist, were implemented by ER doctors 91% of the time.
The study suggests that pharmacists can greatly improve patient safety-and while not all hospitals can afford to hire a pharmacist for every department, trauma center pharmacists deserve special consideration. There are typically more errors in emergency situations, and more medications are prescribed there than in clinics.