Hospital workers say the recession may be compromising medication safety. A recent Institute for Safe Medication Practices survey of health care professionals found that the economy is taking a toll in a number of hospitals and forcing workers to take steps that put patients at risk. Respondents were predominantly nurses and pharmacists working at a staff, managerial or director level in hospitals.

Respondents identified several affected areas:

Medication safety officer: About 42 percent reported that the economy has forced a reduction in dedicated time or total elimination of the position of a medication safety officer or quality/risk staff dedicated to medication safety.

Purchasing: Thirty-seven percent reported that economic conditions have resulted in less safe purchasing decisions, such as switching to multiple-dose vials instead of single-use vials and prefilled syringes. A third also reported reduced availability of medications.

Pharmacist involvement: More than 40 percent of respondents said the economy had impacted the clinical presence of pharmacists on patient care units.

Safety steps: About 33 percent of respondents reported a reduction in staff for patient education and 31 percent reported that staffing changes had led to missed independent double-checks of high-alert medications prior to dispensing or administration.