RNs performed better than LPNs in identifying medication errors.

Registered nurses may be more likely than licensed practical nurses to identify high-risk medication errors in nursing homes, new research suggests. 

A study conducted at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing presented nurses at 12 Missouri facilities with scenarios including high- and low-risk additions, omissions and dosage issues. They were asked about the scenarios, including whether they thought a discrepancy was present and if they would seek more information to resolve the discrepancy.

Results showed RNs identified overall discrepancies in 62% of the scenarios, compared to 50% for LPNs.

When the scenarios were narrowed down to those involving high-risk medications, the separation in results was stronger. RNs identified errors in 72% of the scenarios,

compared to 49% of LPNs. Results published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation suggest RNs assess medication orders for errors based on potential risk, which can lead to more positive resident outcomes.

Meanwhile, LPNs showed they may be more focused on completing the task of medication reconciliation “rather than engaging in cognitive behavior regarding risk.”

Many nursing homes hire the minimum required number of RNs, favoring lower-cost LPNs. But researchers said a discrepancy in education may contribute to the gap in identifying errors.