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J Emerg Nurs. 2013 May;39(3):289-95. doi: 10.1016/j.jen.2013.01.014. Epub 2013 Apr 6.

Nurse-driven protocols for febrile pediatric oncology patients.

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Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, USA.



Infection is a frequent complication experienced by many children with cancer, with potentially life-threatening consequences that may result in hospitalization, prolonged length of stay, and increased mortality. The need for prompt assessment and early intervention for infection is widely recognized by ED staff as best practice; however, the average length of time to antibiotic administration varies widely in published studies.


An interdisciplinary quality improvement initiative including physician, nursing, and pharmacy leaders was created to streamline the identification and treatment for this high-risk population. Based on published evidence for best practice and national recognition of the need for rapid treatment, the goal was set for administration of antibiotic therapy to less than 60 minutes after ED arrival. This project was conducted at 2 emergency departments in a pediatric health care system with 520 beds and a level I and level II trauma designation. Approximately 154,000 patients are seen annually. In the emergency departments, 271 staff members, including registered nurses, paramedics, and patient care technicians, required education about using the newly designed process. Records from all patients with fever and a known history of pediatric cancer who presented to the emergency departments were included in the retrospective review, including patients with solid tumors, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, and chronic myelogenous leukemia. Exclusion criteria included patients in known remission, those with prior antibiotic therapy at another facility, congenital neutropenia, or parental concern or objection to treatment. A retrospective medical record review of febrile oncology patients treated from September 2008 until May 2012 was conducted to evaluate the impact of this evidence-based practice change to streamline the "door to drug" process. The average length of time until antibiotic administration, nurses' compliance initiating the protocol, and ED length of stay were determined.


The review included 2758 medical records. During the study period from 2008 to 2012, one emergency department's average time for drug administration dropped from 103 to 44 minutes, and the second dropped from 141 to 61 minutes. Both campuses also improved their protocol compliance, with ED 1 increasing from 24% to 78% and ED 2 improving from 30% to 84%.


This quality initiative has direct application for all ED leaders who treat children with cancer. High-risk patients can benefit from a streamlined nurse-initiated process that decreases negative consequences of fever. Collaboration by interdisciplinary leadership within the health care facility, as well as key stakeholder buy-in, is imperative to achieve a process that may lead to decreased hospital stay and reduced systemic infection or mortality for these vulnerable patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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