More, and brighter lighting may help nurses prevent medication errors, according to a recent thesis from the Netherlands.

In the study, nurses who had either nearsightedness or the normal visual changes of aging were less likely to misread small print on medication labels when lighting conditions were optimized for brightness.

The impact of lighting was minor for nurses with perfect vision. However, people with the farsightedness that starts roughly at age 35 encountered problems under suboptimal lighting conditions, reported lead investigator Mariëlle Aarts. While corrective lenses are another solution to the problem, there is often a transition period before people begin to correct their changing vision, and that presents a risk, Aarts said. When study participants’ visual acuity was in that gray area – sufficient but not perfect – more light helped these nurses to correctly read fine print labels.

Improving lighting is a simple, non-invasive means to support one of the main duties of nurses: preparing, dispensing and monitoring medications, concluded Aarts. 

Aarts, from Eindhoven University of Technology, specializes in light and lighting’s effect on human health, with a particular focus on solutions for the elderly.