Helping Patients Self-Manage Pain Medications and Respiratory Treatments

Keep patients informed of pain medication and breathing treatments

Development of board to track pain medication and respiratory treatment schedule to help patients stay better informed and manage their conditions.

Improved efficiency by keeping patients informed of when their next dose of pain medicine and breathing treatments would be available. Reduced calls to respiratory therapists and nurses which minimized daily disruptions.

Intervention Title:
Managing pain medications and respiratory treatments—Mary Washington Hospital; Fredericksburg, Va.

Mary Washington Hospital
1001 Sam Perry Blvd.
Fredericksburg, VA 22401
P: (540) 741-1100

From the C-Suite:
“Streamlining how patients are informed about their medication and treatment options is vital to their satisfaction and critical to their recovery. Something as simple as a board that indicates when pain medications and respiratory treatments are next available has empowered our patients to better understand their care as well as enabled staff to improve their own efficiencies. Changes such as these, while seemingly small make a big impact and help us deliver high quality care.”

Barbara Kane, R.N., B.S.N., M.B.A., N.E.-B.C.
Chief Nursing Officer

412-bed, full-service not-for-profit hospital that is part of the MediCorp Health System.

Clinical areas affected:

  • 4 South/Renal & Respiratory Unit

Staff involved:

  • Nurses
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Respiratory therapists educator

Staff spent six months planning and developing the treatment board by asking nurses and respiratory therapist what their patient population needed and what staff wanted the board to include. The initial rollout of the boards started with a pilot in 16 rooms. After making tweaks and improvements, the boards were fully implemented across the unit within a few weeks.

Donna Fleming, M.S.N., R.N., N.E.-B.C.
Nurse Manager, 4S/Dialysis
P: (540) 741-4485

Innovation implementation:
During lengthy hospital stays it is often hard for patients to keep track of the many details of their care schedules, especially amidst the stress and distractions of what is happening around them. Patients on the renal and respiratory floor at Mary Washington Hospital were regularly asking nurses when their next dose of pain medication and respiratory treatment would be available. Patient confusion over the timing to receive medication and treatments resulted in frequent calls from the nursing staff to respiratory therapists resulting in numerous interruptions for staff. To keep patients and their families better informed, a team of staff developed boards to place in patient rooms that indicate when pain medications and respiratory treatments were last administered and when the next doses would be available.

Staff developing the boards considered what the needs of their patient population and what nurses and respiratory therapists wanted included on the boards. Respiratory therapists did not want their contact information on the board so instead there is a note instructing patients to let their nurse know if they want a respiratory treatment. Also, rather than giving a specific time when medication and treatments would be available for patients, a window of time was given to provide some flexibility.

When the boards were first tested, patients could not read them because the lettering was too small. Updated boards were created that included room service information, a patient’s ordered diet and the room service phone number. To maintain hygiene standards the board inserts were printed then put into standard frames so a dry erase marker could be used to update information. The boards were hung next to the standard information white boards in all patient rooms that include their nurse’s name and other key information.

The treatment board has improved efficiency by keeping patients informed of when their next dose of pain medicine and breathing treatments would be available. It has also resulted in reduced calls to the respiratory therapists and nurses, minimized daily disruptions on the units.

Advice and lessons learned:

  1. Roll out slowly. Test the new boards first and make necessary tweaks before implementing fully.
  2. Involve patients. Tell patients to ask their nurses to fill out the board in their room so they are part of the process.
  3. Sustain efforts. It’s challenging to keep nurses and staff actively using the boards. Involve the full team from the beginning and take time for periodic staff huddles to encourage use.

Cost/benefit estimate:

Tools to download:

  • Pain and respiratory board