Using failure mode and effects analysis to improve the safety of neonatal parenteral nutrition

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Failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) was used to identify potential errors and to enable the implementation of measures to improve the safety of neonatal parenteral nutrition (PN).


FMEA was used to analyze the preparation and dispensing of neonatal PN from the perspective of the pharmacy service in a general hospital. A process diagram was drafted, illustrating the different phases of the neonatal PN process. Next, the failures that could occur in each of these phases were compiled and cataloged, and a questionnaire was developed in which respondents were asked to rate the following aspects of each error: incidence, detectability, and severity. The highest scoring failures were considered high risk and identified as priority areas for improvements to be made.


The evaluation process detected a total of 82 possible failures. Among the phases with the highest number of possible errors were transcription of the medical order, formulation of the PN, and preparation of material for the formulation. After the classification of these 82 possible failures and of their relative importance, a checklist was developed to achieve greater control in the error-detection process. FMEA demonstrated that use of the checklist reduced the level of risk and improved the detectability of errors.


FMEA was useful for detecting medication errors in the PN preparation process and enabling corrective measures to be taken. A checklist was developed to reduce errors in the most critical aspects of the process.

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