Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Difference a Word Makes

I saw this article the other day in the Wall Street Journal. It's about a mix-up between two drugs with similar names: edetate disodium and edetate calcium disodium. Whether or not the word "calcium" is on the label is pretty important to a patient.

It reminded me of a lab my students did last quarter where they were running multiple reactions with different chemicals and making observations to characterize the reactivity of various compounds. There were a lot of reagents set out for the lab. One person mixed up the label on two acids, added the wrong acid to a reaction, and ended up producing hydrogen sulfide gas that really stunk -- even though he was using an individual fume hood. I caught it quickly, even with my poor nose. Not much harm, so it was a good lesson about being confident with chemical names and looking carefully at the label before using something.

If I'm ever sick and in a hospital, I may panic if I see a former student working as a nurse or a pharmacist. I'll be going through my mental rolodex trying to remember what grade they received and how good they were at chemical nomenclature.

1 comment:

Erika said...

Have a little faith in your students!!! Lol.

... I started out in pre-pharmacy at RWC... I bet the world is glad I changed my mind!