This is how to improve your medication education for patients. Teach them about common/non-scary medications first.
Basic Medication Education: Common Meds
There are a few meds that almost all patients in the hospital are on. Below is a list of a few of them (and common doses) and what I tell my patient when they ask, “Why the hell are you giving me that!? I don’t take that at home!”
Colace 100 mg PO BID
This is a stool softener. When you’re in bed, not moving around as much and taking pain meds, your bowels naturally slow down. We don’t want you to get all blocked up and get what’s called an ileus because that is a major complication that will increase your stay here in the hospital with me! We can easily avoid that by taking this med. Colace just makes it easier to go, it’s not going to make you go like a laxative does. If you get a loose stool, we’ll hold a few doses.
Pepcid 20 mg PO BID
When your body goes through stress [insert reason for hospitalization here], your stomach naturally secretes more acid. This can put you at risk for getting a stress ulcer, which is painful and not a good thing. We give you this medication to prevent that. It’s not a permanent med, but for now, it’s important you take it.
Heparin 5000 units SUBCUT q8hrs
This is a little shot that goes in your belly. It’s really, really important because you’re at high risk of developing a blood clot. We want to prevent that, so we give you this med. It thins your blood enough to significantly decrease your risk for developing a clot but not thin enough to put you at high risk for bleeding. We don’t want you to get a blood clot because it can move and go into your lungs or your brain and cause a stroke.
Medication Education: Insulin for the non-diabetic patient
When your body undergoes stress or trauma, your blood sugar naturally rises. Medications can also cause this (steroids are a typical culprit) and usually the medication is extremely important, so we just need to keep your elevated blood sugar at bay with some insulin. It’s not a permanent thing, but we need to check it at regular intervals and treat it if it’s too high. If your blood sugar is above 200, your wounds and body cannot heal, so it’s extremely important to treat.
Norco (hydrocodone/acetaminophen) 5/325 1-2 tabs q4-6hrs
This is a pain medication that’s a step up from just plain Tylenol. We need to stay on top of your pain and not let it get out of control because it’s a lot easier to keep it at bay by taking this before it’s terrible than to wait until it’s unbearable and then this effective med won’t cut it. Let’s start with 1 pill and see how you feel.
Remember, this medication has Tylenol in it. So, if they have a fever, you may be masking it. And if they’re getting 2 pills q6hrs, that’s 2.6 grams on Tylenol in 24 hours. And let’s say they get a fever and you forget Tylenol is in them (or some other nurse does), then they are REALLY getting a ton of Tylenol. So with Norco, make sure you stay aware of how much Tylenol they’re getting… especially if they have liver issues already. That is a big, big nursey deal.
What other meds do you frequently use and how do you simply explain them to patients?
More Medication Education Nurse-Patient Tips
As you work more and more with patients, here are some more tips that will help you out!