New standard to improve care of 7.7 million Australians who receive IV cannulas or ‘drips’ each year

Caption: Dr Evan Alexandrou from the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Translational Health Research Institute Translation ( far left) at the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care launch of the ‘Management of Peripheral Intravenous Catheters Clinical Care Standard’

For the 7.7 million Australians who have a peripheral intravenous catheter (PIVC) – also known as a cannula or ‘drip’ – inserted each year, their hospital experience is set to become safer thanks to a new clinical standard released this month.

Led by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, with contributions from Dr Evan Alexandrou from the School of Nursing and Midwifery and the Translational Health Research Institute Translation at Western Sydney University, the ‘Management of Peripheral Intravenous Catheters Clinical Care Standard’ is set to change the use of PIVCs.

With up to 40% of all first-time attempts to insert a PIVC in an adult failing, the Standard is set to provide national guidance on best practice care and skilful use of PIVCs – prompting health workers to consider whether a cannula is really necessary before insertion.

The Standard outlines how to insert, maintain and remove PIVCs safely and effectively. It also describes the care that patients should expect to receive if they have a PIVC inserted during a hospital stay.

Dr Alexandrou, who is also a Clinical Nurse Consultant at Liverpool Hospital, said the new PIVC standard offers the chance to review the procedure in hospitals across the country.

“Peripheral intravenous catheter insertion is one of the most practiced clinical procedures in hospitals, yet it carries the greatest risk of failure of any medical device.

“Each day, thousands of PIVCs fail in Australian hospitals, and we continue to accept this unacceptable rate of failure. This standard is a way of re-setting our approach. We need to reduce the burden of multiple cannulation attempts on our patients and to achieve this, a standardised approach to promote first insertion success is necessary.

“Our patients deserve to receive the right device, by the right trained personnel at the right time to minimise delays with treatment and reduce post insertion failure. It’s time to stop accepting the unacceptable,” said Dr Alexandrou.

Associate Professor Amanda Walker, Commission Clinical Director, said it would be easy to overlook the opportunity to improve a medical procedure as common as cannula insertion – yet this makes it vital.

“When people ask why we need this new standard, my answer is simple: ‘patients are not pin cushions’. It doesn’t matter where a clinician fits in the health system, we all have a responsibility to improve patient outcomes.

“We want to improve the patient experience and to boost the confidence of all healthcare workers in knowing how to manage those difficult cannulations,” said Associate Professor Walker.

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