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Nursing procedures are standardized procedures used by nurses to achieve a high level of patient care. By creating routine responses to medical situations, nursing procedures keep nurses on task, and allow them to ensure that patients are getting the care they need. Many hospitals have specific nursing guidelines which they expect their staff to follow, while other nursing procedures are taught in nursing school. In both cases, the guidelines reflect years of experience and collaboration between doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel.
Having standard procedures is a critical part of medical care. Nursing procedures establish priorities of care so that nurses can work quickly to stabilize a patient, focusing on critical issues first and moving to less serious medical problems. They also act as a checklist which can be used to confirm that every step necessary for the patient's well being has been taken, and that these steps have been followed in the right order. These procedures also dictate the number of patients a nurse can care for at once, the maximum hours in a day a nurse can work, and the way in which the nurse handles administrative duties like charting.
When nurses start work at a hospital, they are typically given a nursing policy handbook which provides information about working in that hospital. The handbook includes information about uniforms, hospital procedures, and expected standards of behavior, and it also includes a discussion of standard nursing procedures in that medical facility. Even small details like how medications are shelved or how instruments are tagged are critical for patient safety, making the review of the specific procedures in a particular hospital extremely important.
In a simple example of a nursing procedure, many hospitals require nurses to double check the labels used on bags of intravenous medication, to confirm that the medication is correct before administering it to a patient. Dangerous medications may have brightly colored labels so that nurses are reminded that the contents of the bag could be dangerous to some patients. When a doctor writes an order for a intravenously administered drug, the nurse would get the drug from the supply cabinet, check the label, confirm the dosage, and then hang the bag and set the intravenous drip appropriately. A nurse coming on shift to take care of the same patient would also check the medication.
While nursing procedures are designed to standardize responses to situations to increase patient safety and make nursing more effective, nurses may at times be required to go outside procedural guidelines to deal with unique situations. A good nurse has sound judgment which helps the nurse identify situations in which standard nursing procedures do not apply, and he or she is not afraid to question actions and medical orders which could endanger a patient.