Ask the Nursing Expert about... insulin pens

Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA
Angel McGarrity-Davis, RN, CDONA, NHA

Our company's regional nurse came to my facility and said we were going to start using insulin pens. Can you tell me what I should prepare for?

It is great that you want to get a head start on something new your company is moving toward. This shows real leadership abilities. 

Of the major changes in healthcare, one of which focuses on preventing rehospitalizations, this is one of the things our nursing facilities can do to help our patients be more successful at home. Insulin pens are easier for residents, give more accurate dosing, and are safer for administration.

The pens are pen-shaped injector devices that contain insulin. Insulin pens are designed to be used multiple times by a single resident only and must never be shared. Updates of federal regulations include the following: 

• Insulin pens are never meant for more than one person.

• Insulin pens must be clearly labeled with the resident's name. 

• Insulin is identified as 1 of the 5 high-risk medications by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices. Compared to other medications, insulin is twice as likely to cause patient harm during a medication error.  Always remember the “Rights of Medication Administration.” 

Facilities must have policies and procedures regarding safe use of insulin pens. The Nurse Practice Act, with state and federal regulations, requires you to document the following: blood glucose checks, medications administered and physician's notification of abnormal (out of parameter) values. 

The blood glucose meters should be cleaned and disinfected after every use, per manufacturer's instructions, to prevent carryover of blood and infectious agents.

We need to be at the forefront of this to provide our residents the best care.