January 24, 2013
In light of the insulin pen reuse at the VA Medical Center, Catholic Health is sharing its procedure for injectable insulin to alleviate additional fear in the community and share best practices for dispensing these types of medications. These procedures involve Pharmacy and Nursing working together to protect the welfare and safety of our diabetic patients.
To differentiate between various types and doses of insulin, Catholic Health purchases insulin in different sizes and packaging to minimize medication errors.
Some types of insulin are dispensed to patients using injectable “pens” with a sterile needle at the tip. The pens are labeled for each individual patient. The needle at the end of the pen is disposed of and replaced with each use. The pens are stored in the patient’s medication bin, separate from other insulin. Tamper evident tape is also placed around all new pens so nurses know each patient is receiving a pen that has not been used before. The pens are discarded when the patient is discharged from the hospital or they are no longer needed. They are never sterilized or reused for other patients.
Other insulin is dispensed through multi-dose vials that can be used for multiple patients. These are not dispensed or labeled for individual patients. With this type of insulin, nurses use a new, sterile needle/syringe for each patient. After the insulin is drawn from the vial and given to the patient, the needle/syringe is discarded to prevent any potential contamination.
All pens and syringes are disposed of in tamper-proof Stericycle bins to avoid contamination, reuse and accidental needles sticks.
Insulin products are High Alert/High Risk medications according to the Joint Commission, an independent organization that looks at numerous quality standards to accredit hospitals across the country. To comply with these standards, Catholic Health has long-standing policies in place to ensure the appropriate use of insulin medications.