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September 25, 2018

For most hospitals, the IV bag shortage is a nightmare. For Texas Health, it's boosted nurse satisfaction.

Daily Briefing

    Editor's note: This story was updated on Sept. 26.

    The IV bag shortage has been a source of frustration for hospitals nationwide, but at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, it forced the hospital to adopt a workaround that unexpectedly boosted nurse and patient satisfaction, Alia Paavola reports for Becker's Hospital Review.

    From outbreaks to shortages: How can your hospital prepare for disasters?

    The nationwide IV bag shortage forces hospital to change processes

    IV bags, which hospitals use to administer and dilute patient medications, are one of the most commonly used medical supplies. However, the United States has been experiencing a shortage of the bags since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, as the hurricane damaged many of the commonwealth's medical supply manufacturers.

    Before the IV bag shortage, clinicians at Texas Health Dallas used an automated pump to administer IV drugs to patients. The hospital started using the pumps years ago to reduce error and free up nurses' time to attend to other tasks.

    However, when the shortage began, Texas Health Dallas shelved the pumps and returned the task of administering IV medications back to nurses. For the process change, the nursing department worked closely with the pharmacy department to ensure patient safety and "identify those medications that could be safely provided in syringes ... and could be safely given by IV push over five minutes or less," according to Randell Ball, VP of Texas Health.

    An 'unexpected collateral benefit'

    At first, hospital staff were apprehensive about the change. For instance, Tessa Kennedy, a clinical nurse at Texas Health Dallas, said, "Initially, I expected the change in process was going to take more time, as we were so accustomed to using a pump and IV bag."

    But the change led to unexpected benefits for the hospital's staff and its patients. 

    Administering medication "the old way," as one nurse put it, meant nurses spent more time at the bedside. "What I actually found was it gave me more time with my patients, getting to know them, to provide education and simply have a conversation while doing the IV push," Kennedy said.

    According to Texas Health Dallas CNO Cole Edmonson, nurses "spend a significant amount of time on non-nursing tasks" that take time away from patients. "[A]nything that gives nurses back time to spend with patients ... is truly welcomed in this age of technology and digital equipment."

    Having more nurse-patient interaction benefited not only nurses but patients, too, Paavola reports. Patients said they liked having more time with nurses and that personal time made for a better experience.

    Nurses also said patients rested better without the sounds of IV pumps at night.

    In addition to boosting nurse and patient satisfaction, the new workflow and the shortage meant less waste from IV bags and more cost savings, Paavola reports.

    "Out of a terrible tragedy [Hurricane Maria] and in the most respectful way to everyone impacted, we found some unexpected collateral benefit to our patients' and nurses' experience," Edmonson said (Paavola, Becker's Hospital Review, 9/18).

    From outbreaks to shortages: How can your hospital prepare for disasters?

    Hospitals must be prepared for myriad disasters that can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital health care services.

    Advisory Board has compiled step-by-step procedures for various threats your facility may encounter—though we hope you'll never need to use them.

    Download the Resources

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