Reducing indwelling urinary catheter use in the emergency department: a successful quality-improvement initiative

J Emerg Nurs. 2014 May;40(3):237-44; quiz 293. doi: 10.1016/j.jen.2012.07.022. Epub 2013 Mar 7.


Introduction: This quality-improvement project aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of implementing multidisciplinary education and deploying utilization tools aimed at reducing the inappropriate insertion of indwelling urinary catheters (IUCs) in the emergency department. Literature supports the use of decision support tools and education as proven techniques to reduce IUC use. Few studies have implemented a multidisciplinary approach involving the use of focus groups to understand the thought processes behind deciding to place an IUC.

Methods: Focus groups were used to understand the current practice for inserting an IUC in the emergency department. These data were then used to create a nursing-based IUC decision support tool and educational presentation regarding appropriate uses for IUCs. Live, in-person education sessions were given to emergency nurses, emergency medical technicians, physicians, and residents; in addition, electronic education was assigned to all emergency nurses and technicians. Seventy-eight percent of ED staff received some form of education regarding appropriate IUC insertion criteria. Physicians and residents also received an in-person presentation on the topic. A survey was sent to all emergency nurses and emergency medical technicians to assess actual practice changes. In addition, an IUC utilization and appropriateness audit was completed before and immediately after the interventions.

Results: The project resulted in a 25% decrease in the proportion of patients admitted to inpatient status with IUCs placed in the emergency department and a 9% decrease in the inappropriate use of IUCs. Staff surveys after education showed that staff members were more likely to document the reason for placing an IUC and to use alternatives to IUCs.

Conclusions: The potential risks associated with IUCs often go overlooked by direct-care staff members. Educating staff and creating new standards and utilization tools have often been used to decrease the initial insertion of IUCs and to improve recognition of appropriate removal of IUCs. Using direct feedback from staff to develop the interventions led to a reduction in IUC insertions in the emergency department in the short-term, but long-term changes were not seen. The project results suggest that incorporating staff into the decision making and implementation will lead to long-term acquisition of knowledge and longer-term results. Ongoing regularly scheduled education refreshers need to be assessed for their potential to affect long-term change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Catheter-Related Infections / prevention & control*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / adverse effects*
  • Catheters, Indwelling / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Emergency Treatment / methods
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality Improvement
  • Risk Assessment
  • Urinary Catheterization / adverse effects*
  • Urinary Catheterization / methods
  • Urinary Tract Infections / prevention & control*