Reading recipes doesn’t require magical powers, although it will appear if you’ve tried reading one. If you can read the scriptures you could be confused with the abbreviations and usage of Latin. Who even reads Latin these days?

To be fair, the entire recipe is not written in Latin – just the acronyms. So you could do something like “Take 2 tabs po BID prn.” Read. Fortunately, the pharmacist will understand, but it is important that you understand too in order to reduce the risk of error.

Medication errors can occur anywhere along the chain from prescribing to consumption. The doctor may write the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. The pharmacist can mix up the drugs. You can misunderstand and take the wrong dose or take the drug incorrectly. Understanding your recipe will help you stay more confident.

Check your prescription before leaving the office or hospital

It is natural that you want to get out of the doctor’s office or the nurse’s office quickly and make room for the next patient. However, if you are given a prescription, it is important not to take it and run. Take a look at the recipe and check it out. Read it aloud and ask for confirmation. Ask what the recipe means in plain English. If you’re discharged from the hospital, it will be a nurse or a discharge planner. They should be able to review your prescription with you.

If the prescription was sent electronically to a pharmacy, request a copy so that you can review it.

In the pharmacy

It is true that doctors know a lot about the drugs they are prescribed, but pharmacists are the drug specialists. When you pick up your prescription, speak to your pharmacist again about the medication, dosage, and how to take it. If it doesn’t sound like the doctor told you, let the pharmacist know so they can review the prescription. If you are taking over-the-counter drugs, supplements, or nutritional products, ask if there might be any interactions between these and the new prescription.

As a frontline health care professional, pharmacists are also a good resource if you’re experiencing mild side effects or having trouble taking your medication. You can make suggestions that might help.

Oh, and what does “Take 2 tabs po BID prn” mean? Take 2 tablets twice a day as needed.

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