By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN editor-in-chief

We recently had a lot of feedback to a question we posted on our Facebook page: “We know old habits die hard and nursing has a lot of them. What old habits do you think we should kill? NPO after midnight? Routine temps on every patient?”

We got several good responses:

– Waking patients up at 4am for blood drawing, routine vital signs

– Measuring intake and output on every patient

– Taking routine temps

– Giving dorsogluteal IM injections

– Doing a skin prep for an IV by swabbing the site in a circular motion, inside to out (some manufacturers of products are instructing that skin prep be done by a scrubbing motion)

– Enemas before childbirth

– Double documenting

– Rushing to give medications right on time (which makes one prone to error)

– NPO after midnight

Choosing from the above, we then asked this: “Survey question #1: Do you routinely wake patients up at night to check their vital signs? If not, when would you?”

This question received many comments, from “Of course not” and “only when necessary” to “If a doc orders q 4 vs and you don’t do it and something happens to the patient, that would not be good for you AT ALL.” Also this: “Orders are orders which we must follow.”

Commenters cited several stories of recent postoperative patients (who, I agree, should have vital signs frequently monitored) who could have suffered grave consequences had the nurse not woken them to check their vital signs or level of consciousness. I do like what one response noted—“critical thinking.” This is key, regardless of what the physician order may be—if the physician order is “q4h” but a patient’s condition may warrant more frequent checks, we would all hope the nurse wouldn’t stick to q4h.

Of course, for those working in ICUs or in postanesthesia units, the answer is simple: the patients are there precisely because they need close monitoring. As one responder indicated, “If you don’t check, you don’t know. I don’t want to be that nurse!”

Our next question was this: “When you give IM injections, what site do you most often use: dorsogluteal (upper outer quadrant of buttocks), ventrogluteal (lateral hip), or deltoid (upper arm)? Why?” Weigh in here or on our Facebook page.

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