How to Label a Medication Syringe

In providing patient medication supplies, there is a lot of detail that goes into each and every package. Unit dose medication packaging solutions including materials like labels for single-dose vials and syringes must also comply with federal standards for labeling drugs. This takes a lot of diligent attention and can be a daunting task for healthcare facilities and pharmacies. The evidence suggests that pharmacies are making more critical mistakes with mislabeled or unlabeled syringes, leading to serious medication safety concerns. However, there are guidelines and technologies available to assist pharmacists in providing the most accurate labeling information for every medication syringe. Start by understanding more about the importance of safe and accurate medication labels. 

Importance of Labeling Medication Syringes

The Joint Commission released National Patient Safety Goals, laying out goals for improving medication safety by labeling all medications, medication containers, and other solutions to ensure patients receive the correct medication, whether they are in a perioperative setting, assisted living community, or by themselves at home. According to Federal Survey Manual and F431 §483.60(d) Labeling of Drugs and Biologicals, “Drugs and biologicals used in the facility must be labeled in accordance with currently accepted professional principles, and include the appropriate accessory and cautionary instructions, and the expiration date when applicable.” 

Injectable medications, along with many oral medications, are dispensed as ready-to-use syringes that are either administered by a healthcare professional or by the patient. This is when labeling medications is paramount, since patients have only the information on the syringe label to help guide them. However, even in clinical areas, mistakes can be made when medication vials and syringes are improperly labeled. Hazardous conditions are increased for the patient when high-alert medications are being administered.

Everything the patient requires for proper dose administration must be printed on the label. At a minimum, medication containers and medication syringe labels must include:

  • Accurate spelling of medication name  
  • Brand name or generic name
  • Patient’s name
  • Dosing amounts
  • Dosing and/or drug administration instructions
  • Total medication quantity
  • Medication expiration date
  • Date of dispensing
  • Serial number
  • Name of the prescriber
  • Name, address, and telephone number of the issuing pharmacy

Each piece of information is there to improve patient safety. Reducing spelling errors, typographical mistakes, or the spacing of the information including label breaks will help prevent patient harm.

Safe Labeling Prevents Medication Errors

A patient error with medication involving a syringe can send a patient straight to the ER or worse. This could be due to an overdose of medication, or not using enough medication because the labeling instructions are inaccurate. Other concerns are using the wrong medication altogether due to a mistake with labeling in the pharmacy.

Keeping patients out of the emergency room is a top priority for the medical industry. Medication is expected to make the patient better, not increase their rate of illness or chance of suffering from an overdose, adverse reaction, or misuse. This is where providing safe labeling will prevent medication errors and save a pharmacy from a lawsuit.

Issues With Mislabeling Vaccinations

Vaccines are one of the most common types of injectable medications, especially since the COVID-19 vaccines became available. Giving the wrong dosage or vaccine can be detrimental to the patient’s health and personal wellness. 

In 2021, there were multiple reports of mix-ups between the Flu and COVID-19 vaccines. With more vaccinations being added to the market all the time, labeling syringes accurately and having procedures in place to reduce errors is the best way to ensure patients are getting the right vaccine at the right dose.

It is important to focus on perfecting a medication syringe labeling process. This typically involves automation equipment as a way to also improve production with fewer labeling mistakes. Along with choosing a new syringe labeling system by MPI, you want to identify elements of syringe labels that must meet federal and industry guidelines. This includes the font type and size, as well as the color of the label and printed information.

Best Practices for Labeling a Medication Syringe

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) reports errors with injectable medications remain a common problem. Along with being more common than other types of medications, such as pills, about 50 percent of harmful errors in injectable medications occur during administration. By eliminating labeling mistakes on injectable medications, you are able to minimize danger to the patient. That is worth the extra effort in best practices for labeling a medication syringe. 

Let’s cover some of the best practices for labeling a medication syringe. The label itself must be:

  • Clearly printed
  • Provide all of the medication information
  • Not reduce the nurse or patient’s ability to administer medication for themselves in a timely and safe manner

There are several ways to ensure this happens when labeling an injectable medication.

Start with the label design and where the information is printed, especially key data like patient name, drug name, dose instructions, dosage amount, and pharmacy contact number. The label must also meet specific industry guidelines for the medication you are labeling.

For example, if you are labeling vaccinations, there will be labeling requirements that differ from the labeling of anesthesia. Determining the correct labeling requirements for the type of medication syringe you are packaging is very important at this stage. 

Watch for how the label breaks when flagging labels. A label break occurs where the end of a label lies on a syringe. If the label break is in an awkward placement, the nurse or patient could miss key information. This could be a number or the inclusion of a few ending letters on an important word.

Covering syringe barrel markings is another critical error that happens with pharmaceutical syringe labeling. If the syringe markings, indicating measurements for dosing, are not visible due to the sticker label, this slows down patient care and may lead to medication dosing errors.

If the pharmacist is adding additional information to a medication syringe label after it is affixed to the unit, there are some ways to do this safely. Use a ballpoint pen or a permanent felt-tipped marker on a label when handwriting instructions to minimize smearing. Patients can’t read a smudged or blurred word very well, which will likely lead to improper medication administration or dosing.

Color blindness and age-related vision loss are concerns for patients self-administering medication. For high-contrast color combinations on labeling for syringes, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recommends the following:

  • Black text on white background
  • Blue text on yellow background
  • White text on blue background
  • Blue text on white background

Using an optimal color combination for text on the background of a medication syringe is one area where the pharmacist or provider of patient medication supplies can improve patient care. There is also the use of certain color options that are reserved specifically for labeling certain drugs considered more dangerous as classified narcotics, such as benzodiazepines or opioids. For example, the color Salmon 156 is reserved for major tranquilizers and anti-emetics, while beta blockers have two colors–Copper 876U and White.

For more information, check with specific health care industries and providers of safe medical practices. The ASA provides specific guidelines for labeling pharmaceuticals used in anesthesiology. They are responsible for potent medications used for putting patients under general anesthesia for surgery. As a result, the ASA is alert to the importance and patient care associated with medication syringes.

How Medical Packaging Inc., LLC Can Help

Medical Packaging Inc., LLC (MPI) is a leading provider of unit dose and liquid medicine packaging and labeling systems. With MPI’s Auto-Wrap® Syringe Labeling System, you can automate the process of labeling injectable medications and oral syringes. Compact enough to fit in an office, the label printer is capable of printing 20 syringes in 60 seconds. This is the perfect solution for retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies.

Find out how our medical packaging and labeling units will improve your business and increase productivity. Contact MPI today to request a free quote for your ideal medical packaging equipment.