Infusing with Technology: IV, Auto-Syringe, and PCA Pumps

Part of the IV Therapy For Dummies Cheat Sheet

You can trace infusion pump technology back to the 1960s, when healthcare institutions used pumps mainly to improve accuracy and relieve IV nurses from constant monitoring and frequent medication administration. Today, smart infusion pumps help nurses deliver a vast array of complex medical therapies, including the following:

  • Delivery of insulin and IV nutrition timed to coincide with regular meals

  • Escalating flow rates to start slowly, allowing nurses to monitor the patient for adverse reactions

  • Intermittent options and IV pushes that allow for closer monitoring of patient responses

  • Tapered dosages to enable nurses to wean patients from medications

Additional innovations in smart pump technology include

  • Barcode readers and dose error reduction software (DERS)

  • Drug libraries that help prevent medication interactions

  • Safety alarms that signal infusion completion or complications

  • Sophisticated clinical advisories that provide practical information, such as reminders to administer a particular medication only through a central line

In addition to smart pumps, another significant advancement in pump technology is the auto-syringe pump, which allows nurses to insert preloaded medication-filled syringes into a pump chamber that automatically delivers a specific amount of medication at a controlled flow rate. Auto-syringe pumps deliver very small amounts of fluid at very slow rates, sometimes as low as 0.01 milliliters per hour, making them ideal for use with infants and fluid-restricted adults.

One of the most popular features of modern infusion pump technology is patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). PCA enables the patient to administer her own pain medication by pressing a control button attached to a continuous IV pump. When she presses the PCA button, a prescribed amount of analgesic or narcotic is released into the IV tubing and delivered by the primary infusion.

The key to safely administering IV medications is being knowledgeable about the medication, equipment, and supplies associated with the drug's administration. In some states, the IV nurse is primarily responsible for being knowledgeable even when a physician administers the drug. To become knowledgeable and promote patient safety, study the drug's circular about dosage, side effects, and management of adverse reactions. Then check out the infusion pump and associated supplies to make sure they're in proper working condition.

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