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Why Nursing Knowledge of Drug Interaction Is Important

Prescription medications are designed to address various health concerns. For the most part, they are good at doing just that, but certain circumstances could lead to harm.

Drug interactions have been known to weaken drug effectiveness, cause unexpected side effects or even increase the action of certain medications when a patient takes multiple types of prescriptions. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “some drug interactions can even be harmful to you. Reading the label every time you use a nonprescription or prescription drug and taking the time to learn about drug interactions may be critical to your health.”

Patients should be knowledgeable about the types of medications they are taking and when to take them. For example, if two medications are known to interact with each other, one may be prescribed for the morning and the other for the evening.

To stay informed, patients can also take charge and ask their healthcare providers for any medication information that could affect their overall wellness. However, for this to be a truly effective approach, providers need to know exactly which medications, supplements and vitamins or minerals patients are ingesting. Pharmacists are also a great resource for their medication expertise.

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners must have a foundational knowledge of medications, drugs and FDA approval processes to best serve patients and their treatment needs. Graduates of a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) program will be equipped with the necessary knowledge in this area.

Which Drug Interactions Are Important to Consider?

The FDA lists three categories of drug interactions people should recognize. These include:

  1. Drug-drug interactions: Two (or more) drugs react and cause a person to suffer an unexpected side effect.
  2. Drug-food/beverage interactions: Side effects occur when drugs intermix with certain foods or beverages.
  3. Drug-condition interactions: An existing or underlying medical condition poses the potential for undesirable side effects when combined with drugs.

It is always helpful to read the labels on all medications, whether over-the-counter or prescribed by a medical professional. Side effects can be unpredictable. Just because one person did not experience side effects does not mean everyone taking a certain medication will have the same experience.

Nurses’ Role in Drug Interaction Knowledge and Education

Nurses play a crucial role in maintaining medication safety for their patients. For example, if a patient stays overnight at a hospital, nurses must ensure all medications are administered properly. If the nurse administers a higher dose or mixes up medications by mistake, the patient may suffer a side effect that could be lethal. The same goes for potential drug interactions.

A study from the International Journal of Higher Education states, “Although medication safety has been a concern of all healthcare professionals, registered nurses play an important role in medication safety as patients’ advocates.” Nurses must be able to effectively explain various medications to their patients and provide clear, easy-to-understand information regarding the three interaction categories.

Extreme Danger of Alert Fatigue

One of the most lethal side effects of drug interaction is alert fatigue. Often, healthcare facilities allow electronic data to assign prescriptions to patients through a “decision support system.” The system has been known to make mistakes and mix up doses between medications.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality explains, “over 90 percent of DDI (drug-drug interaction) alerts seen by prescribers are overridden, resulting in alert fatigue.”

Alert fatigue has the potential to cause further issues for patients. If they continue to take the destructive medication as prescribed, they can harm themselves and others. This risk is especially true for patients who take medications such as sedatives and allergy medications. In addition, if they operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery, the risk for harm intensifies.

Cultivate Critical Judgement With a Master’s Degree

One way to cultivate critical judgment as a nurse is to further your career and earn your MSN degree. Those who enroll in the MSN – PMHNP online program at St. Thomas University will develop their advanced nursing practice expertise and explore how to best manage patients who need mental health care.

The program empowers graduates to advocate for policies that improve health outcomes and elevate the functioning of clients with mental health disorders. The intensive program also prepares students to apply patient-care technology, such as informatics, to enhance patient care using a collaborative approach.

For example, the Advanced Clinical Pharmacology course covers the basics of pharmacology to appropriately manage common acute and chronic health problems of diverse populations. In the Psychopharmacology course, students explore the most common psychoactive medications to ensure all patients receive ethical mental health care.

Each future PMHNP will obtain the knowledge required to enter into influential roles in healthcare facilities such as correctional facilities, behavioral health programs, residential substance abuse shelters, outpatient clinics, detox centers, schools, mental health agencies, hospitals or private practices. Thanks to the accelerated nature of the program, they will be prepared to pursue these opportunities in as few as 18 months.

Learn more about St. Thomas University’s online MSN – Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner online program.

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